Launched in 1955, ITV is a federation of television companies holding licences from the Independent Television Commission (ITC) to broadcast in fourteen regions throughout the United Kingdom.

There are currently fifteen companies holding licences to broadcast in the fourteen regions (two licences being held for London, Carlton controlling the weekday output and the other for the weekends, the mysteriously-named London Weekend Television). The regions, and current licence holders, are:

England & Wales

East                          Anglia
East, West & South Midlands   Carlton
London                        Carlton & LWT
North East                    Tyne Tees
North West                    Granada
South East                    Meridian
South West                    Carlton
West and Wales                HTV
Yorkshire                     Yorkshire
Channel Islands               Channel
Scotland & Borders
The Borders and Isle of Man   Border
Central Scotland              ScottishTV
North of Scotland             Grampian
Ireland
Northern Ireland              UTV
At the time of launch, the only other channels available in the UK were BBC1 and BBC2, both funded by the television licence fee, while ITV's funding comes purely from regionalised advertising. In terms of programming output, it's very much within the mainstream including drama, comedy, light entertainment, sport national news and regional news (from twenty-seven regions and sub-regions). Very little of the choice of shows you can see on ITV are what you could call high-brow. Or even, really, mid-brow. It's pretty much tabloid television designed to appeal to the majority of the UK that reads The Sun with, to be fair, occasional breaks for quality, quality drama - see Bad Girls and Cracker. Seriously, when ITV does drama it is often compulsive viewing. (recent 2003 example, the christopher eccleston vehicle, the second coming).

The channel is responsible for, amongst others, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and the longest-running soap opera in the United Kingdom, Coronation Street.

ITV has been falling into a severe state of disrepair recently, mainly due to wimpy regulation and the Conservatives. Here's exactly what happened...
In the 80s, boom and bust took its toll on ITV. Television South (TVS) bought Mary Tyler-Moore Entertainment and became TVS Entertainment, then fell apart because of declining interest in MTM programmes. However, this was not what murdered ITV.

Around the same time, Thames Television made a documentary called Death on the Rock, which was about an alleged Tory government coverup. The IBA, the broadcasting authority at the time, admitted that they were loath to do anything, as to remove the programme from transmission would hinder free speech in their view. The broadcast went ahead to great acclaim.

This incensed the Thatcher government, and they therefore took action through legislation to make sure that Thames did not have a hope in hell of getting through the next ITV franchise round. Abolishing the 60s/70s Broadcasting Act that had served so well, the Tories created a new Act, the 1990 Broadcasting Act. The provisions of this were:

  • The IBA would be killed off and replaced with the ITC (Independent Television Commission).
  • Ownership rules would be relaxed, and mergers would be allowed between contractors.
  • The transmitters would be privatised and put under control of NTL (yes, the cable company).
  • To win an ITV franchise, the would-be contractor would have to submit a cash bid to the ITC, which would have to be paid yearly.
Despite protests from viewers and the ITV companies themselves, the legislation went into force. At the 1993 franchise rounds, Thames was up against the new Carlton Television (who had already made a bid for Thames, but had the deal blocked by the IBA). Thames' bid amounted to around £50million (an obscene amount of cash, but as the quote goes, ITV is a licence to print money) but Carlton bid more, and even while using the "exceptional circumstances" clause (ironically put in place to protect companies like Thames) Thames couldn't and didn't win the new franchise, and Carlton got it instead.

Carlton's programming was low quality and cheap compared to that of Thames, and was certainly a shock to the people of London. Well, it would be a shock to the people of the Midlands too...

In 1994, Carlton bought Central Independent Television, the contractor for the Midlands, and Granada (from the north-west) bought Carlton's weekend companion LWT. From then on, there was a frenzy of franchise buying as both Carlton and Granada went on a massive shopping spree for regions. At the present time, this is how the franchises stand: Carlton: Granada: SMG: Independent: Eventually, the look and feel of the regions-their logos and such-disappeared as homogenization occurred around the network. On 28th October 2002, at 9:25AM, ITV ceased to have a unique selling point, as it dropped its regionalism. It became yet another faceless channel among the hundreds on British digital TV. Programming was cut back-despite some high quality dramas, most of the programming nowadays is regurgitated formats, repeated ad infinitum because apparently that's what the people want.

Now, the Communications Bill 2002 threatens to fuX0r ITV completely by allowing foreign ownership, once again eroding the image of ITV being OUR TV station. Soon, we could have Carlton-ClearChannel. Or NBC-Granada. It seems that with a Neo-Thatcherite Labour government, we're going to lose everything we hold dear.

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