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Alternate History

ITV's History if it had converted into a single brand at an earlier time

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This timeline takes place in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

The Broadcasting Act of 1963

The British Conservative government spent much of the late 1950s and early 1960s privatising and deregulating British industry, and commercial broadcasting was no exception. The Broadcasting Act of 1963 paved the way for the deregulation of the British commercial broadcasting industry, which was to have many consequences for the ITV system.

As a result of this Act, the Independent Television Authority was abolished, and replaced by two new 'light-touch' regulators: the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the Radio Authority. The small and upstart Cablevision Authority (created in 1960) was also abolished, its powers transferred to the IBA. The act also changed the system of licence allocation for the franchises now legally known as Channel 3: the previous system where applicants needed to show good programming ideas and fine financial controls was replaced by highest-bidder auctions to determine the winner of each ITV regional franchise. This element of the ITV franchising process was very controversial; the press and the existing ITV companies lobbied to have it changed and the IBA agreed to introduce a 'quality threshold' to prevent high bidders with poor programme plans from joining the system. Another safeguard was the 'business plan' which determined if a bidder could maintain the payments due and still retain money for programme making.

Other changes were also made as part of the act: ITN, the news provider for ITV, was no longer to be exclusively owned by ITV companies. Additionally, Channel 4 (created in this universe on 2 November 1960), which had previously been an independent subsidiary of the ITA, was now to become a government-owned corporation, patterned after the BBC. It would also begin to sell its own advertising – a function previously provided by each ITV company as a return for subsidising the channel.

One further change in the 1963 Act related to the way the ITV networking system was run. Since the start of the 1960s, the Independent Television Companies' Association's Programme Controllers' Committee, representing the 'Big Five' network companies (Rediffusion, ATV London, ATV Midlands, Granada Television, and ABC Weekend Television) had decided which programmes had aired in network programme time slots. This had the effect of excluding smaller ITV companies, as well as independent production companies. Following lobbying by independent producers and Southern Television, the Act required that ITV's scheduling be performed by a nominated person independent of the regional companies, and that a 25% threshold of independent production be required. This led to the creation in 1965 of the ITV Network Centre, a central body in charge of the network schedule, with, for the first time, a single ITV Director of Programming.

1964–1972

Following the changes laid out in the Broadcasting Act 1963, a franchise round was announced by the IBA in 1964 for licences beginning April 1964. A number of companies bid for the licences including:

Franchise Incumbent and bid Competition and bid Results Winner
Borders Border Television £52,000 unopposed unopposed Border (by default)
Central Scotland Scottish Television £2,000 unopposed unopposed Scottish (by default)
Channel Islands Channel Television £1,000 CI3 Group £102,000 CI3 Group disqualified on quality grounds Channel (by default)
East and West Midlands Associated Television (ATV) £2,000 unopposed unopposed Associated Television (ATV) (by default)
East of England Anglia Television £17,800,000 CPV-TV £10,100,000;
Three East £14,100,000
Incumbent highest bidder. CPV-TV disqualified on quality grounds. Anglia (highest bidder)
London (weekdays) Rediffusion Television £32,700,000 CPV-TV £45,319,000;
Carlton Television £43,200,000
CPV-TV disqualified on quality grounds. Carlton disqualified for business plan. Rediffusion (highest bidder)
London (weekends) Associated Television (ATV) £7,590,000 London Independent Broadcasting £35,400,000 London Independent Broadcasting disqualified on quality grounds Associated Television (ATV) (by default)
North of Scotland Grampian Television £720,000 North of Scotland £2,710,000;
C3 Caledonia £1,130,000
North of Scotland and C3 Caledonia both disqualified on quality grounds Grampian (by default)
North East England Tyne Tees Television £15,100,000 North East Television £5,010,000 Incumbent highest bidder. Tyne Tees (highest bidder)
North West England Granada Television £9,000,000 North West Television £35,000,000 North West Television disqualified on quality grounds Granada (by default)
Northern Ireland Ulster Television £1,010,000 TVNi £3,100,000;
Lagan £2,710,000
TVNi disqualified for business plan. Lagan disqualified on quality grounds Ulster (by default)
South and South East Southern Television £59,800,000 Meridian Broadcasting £36,500,000;
CPV-TV £22,100,000;
Carlton £18,100,100
Meridian disqualified for business plan CPV-TV disqualified on quality grounds. Southern Television (highest bidder)
South West Westward Television £16,100,000 Westcountry Broadcasting £7,820,000;
Tele West £7,270,000
Westcountry disqualified for business plan. Tele West disqualified on quality grounds. Westward TV (highest bidder)
South Wales and West of England Television Wales and the West (TWW) £20,500,000 Merlin £19,400,000;
C3WW £18,300,000;
C3W £17,800,000
Incumbent highest bidder. C3WW disqualified on quality grounds. Television Wales and the West (TWW) (highest bidder)
West and North Wales Wales West and North Television (Teledu Cymru) (WWN) £10,500,000 TWW £19,400,000;
C3WW £18,300,000;
C3W £17,800,000
TWW (highest qualified bidder), C3WW disqualified on quality grounds. Television Wales and the West (TWW) (highest qualified bidder)
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Granada Television £37,700,000 Viking £30,100,000;
White Rose £17,400,000
Incumbent highest bidder. Viking disqualified on quality grounds. Granada (highest bidder)
Breakfast Morning TV £14,100,000 Sunrise £34,600,000;
Daybreak £33,200,000
Sunrise highest bidder. Sunrise [later TV-am] (highest bidder)

As a direct result of the franchise bid:

  • West Wales and North Television (Teledu Cymru) (WWN) lost the West and North Wales franchise to Television Wales and the West (TWW).
  • Morning TV (created in 1953) lost the national breakfast television franchise to Sunrise Television, which changed its name to TV-am before launch because of a dispute with Sky Broadcasting Britain (created in this timeline in 1956) over the name 'Sunrise'.
  • ORACLE (created in this timeline in 1955) lost the National Teletext franchise to Teletext Ltd.

All other existing ITV companies retained their regional franchises. Due to their bids being barred on business plan grounds and therefore deemed 'too high', WWN attempted to obtain a judicial review of the IBA's decisions, and of the wording of the 1963 Act. Accordingly, the IBA held off awarding the contract to TWW until the review was completed. The review of the West and North Wales franchise process took several months, but was decided in favour of the IBA.

The relaxation in the franchise ownership rules, as a result of the 1963 Act, meant that mergers between ITV companies were now possible; this was further enhanced by the passing of the Broadcasting Act 1966, which relaxed the rules even further. As a result, companies began to take each other over to increase efficiencies and to expand.

In 1965, Granada and Tyne Tees merged again, creating Granada-Tyne Tees Television plc. The two companies were permitted to merge before their existing arrangements expired in June 1965, due to the marginal nature of both companies' finances, and a need to rationalise the two companies before the franchise handover date. Takeovers began in earnest in March 1966, as Associated Television London Limited took over ATV Midlands having held a stake in the company since 1955, BET (a media company created in 1880) bought Rediffusion Television in a hostile bid, and South Broadcasters Limited, owners of Southern Television, took over Anglia Television. As a result of the latter, Anglia's presentation and playout facilities were moved to Southern's base in Southampton. In August 1966, Associated Television London Limited bought Westward Television and increased its stake in ATV Midlands to 81%. Then, in January 1967, B.E.T. acquired Granada-Tyne Tees Television and moved the presentation and playout of Granada and Tyne Tees to The Leeds Studios, while Scottish Television Group (STV Group), which owned Scottish Television, acquired Grampian Television and began to consolidate staff at its studio base in Glasgow. On March 28, 1967, United News and Media, the evolution of South Broadcasters Limited and owner of Southern and Anglia, purchased TWW; however, few departments were consolidated.

1968-1972

By 1968, four groups owned the majority of the ITV franchises: BET, Associated Television London Limited, United News and Media (UNM) and the STV Group, with Ulster Television, Channel Television and Border Television remaining independent. From here, the companies further consolidated their channels. On 30th July 1968, a new, ribbon-based on-air look was introduced and adopted by the BET and UNM regions, along with Border and Channel. This look reduced regional identity to a design at the conclusion of the ident: the majority of the ident was generic to all the stations. Two months before, in May 1968, ATV dropped the Westward name from its on-air presentation, instead branding the region as ATV, and using the same presentation for all three regions. In the summer of 1970, following an unsuccessful attempt to merge with ATV, UNM sold its three stations - Southern, Anglia and TWW - to BET. However, BET had to sell the broadcasting arm of TWW to ATV to comply with the then-current regulatory requirements. In July 1971, BET acquired Border from Capital Theatrical Group and moved presentation and play-out facilities to Leeds.

In addition to franchise mergers, in 1968, the Independent Television Association and Network Centre formally merged, becoming "ITV Network Limited". At the same time, a new upper-case ITV network logo was introduced at the same time for use around the network. The new logo design was meant to appear friendlier to the viewer.

Throughout this period, the ITV companies sought to expand into the new, multi-channel environment forming in the UK. In October 1966, Rediffusion launched four channels through a joint venture with Sky Broadcasting Britain entitled Sky/BET Networks. These four channels, BET Plus, BET Good Life, BET Men & Motors and BET Talk TV, respectively focused on repeated entertainment programming from the Rediffusion and BET archives, women's lifestyle programming, programming for men and televised interactive debating. BET Talk TV closed down in August 1967 after only 10 months on air due to low viewership, while BET Good Life rebranded to BET Breeze in May 1968. In September 1966 ATV launched ATV Food Network, a cookery channel, and in November 1966 a joint venture between Scottish Television and Sky Broadcasting Britain was launched, entitled Scottish/Sky Television, and aimed mainly at Scots who lived outside of Scotland. While Scottish/Sky Television closed in May 1968 due to low viewership, ATV expanded its channels, launching ATV Select in February 1967 followed by ATV Cinema, ATV Kids and ATV World in November 1968. However, all but ATV Cinema closed shortly into the new millennium, mainly due to low viewership and cost-cutting in light of the cost of funding ONdigital (see below).

Despite these larger companies having launched their own services a few years previously, BET, ATV, and UNM collaborated to launch a new service in December 1968: ITV2. The new channel expanded network ITV programmes and launched on multiple services, giving additional appeal to the style of ITV itself in light of new competition from channels operating on satellite, cable television and more recently digital terrestrial television (DTT). However, ITV2 only launched in England and Wales, leaving STV Group, Ulster Television, and Channel Television to use the multiplex space in their respective regions to whatever purpose they saw fit. As a result, STV Group launched S2 in April 1968 and Ulster Television launched TV You (later Ulster Television 2) in June 1968, both offering similar programming tailored for their region. By January 1972, however, both channels had ceased and were replaced by ITV2 itself.

In August 1970, ITN, the news producer for the ITV Network, launched the ITN News Channel, which provided rolling news on cable, satellite and digital terrestrial. Following the increase in ITV-branded channels and services, including ITV2 and ITV Digital, the decision was taken by ATV and BET to rename the ITV Network in their regions as ITV1 in August 1971.

Another venture initiated by ATV and BET was jointly bidding for the newly-created DTT licence. The companies jointly bid with Sky Broadcasting Britain for the licence under the company name British Digital Broadcast Network and won; however, Sky Broadcasting Britain was forced to withdraw following competition laws. ATV and BET launched the service in November 1968 as ONdigital, and ran the service that housed other free-to-air channels. However, Sky Broadcasting Britain had launched its own service, Sky Digital Satellite Service, the previous month and following a heavy promotional campaign by Sky, which compared the Sky Digital Satellite service to ONdigital's service and always to Sky's benefit, ONdigital started making heavy losses. In a resort to keep the venture afloat, ATV and BET used the name of ITV to boost the success of the company. The newly-named ITV Digital launched in July 1971, complete with an expensive advertising campaign featuring Al and Monkey, and an exclusive deal to air the Football League on the newly-created ITV Sport Channel. However, the venture was still not bringing the results required and ITV Digital went into administration in March 1972, with the ITV Sport Channel closing two months later. This led to criticism of ATV and BET from STV Group, Ulster Television and Channel which objected to the ITV name being reduced following the collapse of the service.

1972–present

1972-1975

From 1972, the ITV Network began to consolidate again. On 28 October 1972, the ATV and BET regions adopted a new presentation package featuring the logo on a blue background, which resulted in the regions becoming known as ITV1 at all times, the region names only appearing prior to regional programmes. This look also marked the centralisation of continuity in the ATV and BET regions to London, with the exception of Wales.

The pinnacle of ITV's consolidation was the merger of ATV and BET in 1974. The two companies had previously tried to merge twice before in the 1960s; however, the government and competition laws prevented this from occurring. But in October 1973, the government announced that it would no longer prevent a merger from taking place, subject to safeguards being set in place to ensure the continued independence of STV Group, Ulster Television and Channel Television. ATV and BET finally merged at the end of January 1974, with BET shareholders owning 68% of the new company, ITV Ltd., and ATV shareholders owning the remaining 32%. ITV Ltd. was floated on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol 'ITV' on 2 February 1974. The new company owned all the ITV regions in England, Wales and the Scottish Borders. The choice of the name "ITV Ltd." was controversial, since it could imply that the company ran the entire network, and an agreement had to be reached with STV Group, Ulster Television and Channel before the name could be used.

The day of the merger was marked by significant changes throughout the ITV Ltd. regions. All of the ITV Ltd regional news programmes received a new look in line with the national ITV News bulletins and the regional company logos were replaced officially with an ITV logo followed by the company name below – these began to appear on production captions and as part of other branded output, such as weather summaries. As a result of the merger, ITV Ltd was faced with a surplus of facilities it no longer needed. Studio and production facilities were replicated many times over, many of which were becoming costly to maintain due to age and difficult to justify following technological advancements. As a result, regional news moved into smaller offices and studio facilities were sold off. Anglia's separate studio facility was sold off as an independent studio, as was TWW's main studio in Cardiff. However, Tyne Tees' Newcastle studios and Southern's Southampton studio complex were closed completely and demolished, both broadcasters moving to smaller regional news bureaux. The reduction in the size of the organisation and in the number of transmission centres resulted in a large number of job cuts.

ITV Ltd. reviewed its digital channel portfolio. In June 1972, ATV and BET jointly bought the ITN News Channel from ITN, renaming it the ITV News Channel three months later (although the service was still produced by ITN). In March 1973, the final ATV-owned channel, ATV Cinema, closed; the channel had been struggling ever since the failure of ITV Digital. Following the success of ITV2, compared to the BET and ATV-branded channels, a further channel - ITV3 - was launched on 1 November 1974. The channel replaced BET Plus and aired archive programmes, notably drama. On 1 November 1975, ITV Ltd launched another new channel aimed specifically at men: ITV4. This channel became notable for airing programmes such as classic 1960s ITC Entertainment series and alternative sports such as the British Touring Car Championship. The new channel featured a new-look ITV logo, which was officially rolled out across the network on 9 January 1976. The new look was more coherent than previous looks, and was also voluntarily adopted by Channel Television. 1976 also saw the launch of the Children's ITV channel, which used the airspace previously used by the ITV News Channel which had closed down in December 1974, and of the participation television channel ITV Play, which turned out to be controversial and closed down the following year.

ITV Ltd began to look at high-definition television in June 1974, when it launched an experimental channel, ITV HD, primarily for airing the 1974 FIFA World Cup (to which ITV held the rights) and classic films. ITV HD was launched as a permanent channel in June 1976, showing its own schedule of programmes in HD acquired by ITV Ltd. The channel re-branded as ITV1 HD in December 1979, before becoming a full simulcast of ITV1 on 2 April 1980. The launch of the simulcast service saw the end of the last BET channel, Men & Motors, which was closed down on 1 April 1980 to make room for ITV1 HD on other platforms. On 7 October 1980, ITV Ltd launched ITV2 HD, an HD simulcast of ITV2, followed on 15 November by ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD. All three of these channels were initially only available on the Sky platform.

In June 1975, the IBA announced huge reductions in the licence fees payable by the Channel 3 contractors (and Five). This move reflected the significant shift towards digital viewing in the UK, and the British government's desire to switch off analogue television signals altogether by 1982. Licence fees fell further as the shift to digital continued. The IBA also significantly relaxed most of the remaining public service requirements on the ITV contractors; regional non-news output was a significant casualty of these cutbacks, with most regions now broadcasting no more than two hours a week in this category. An experimental internet service, ITV Local, attempted to unite regional content through an on-line user experience that combined regional news, local programming and other features.

ITV20

In September 1975, the ITV network celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a season of ITV20 programming that was run on the network, including a run down of ITV's 20 top programmes, a World of Sport retrospective, a seven-week Gameshow Marathon, the launch of an "Avenue Of The Stars", and most notably a five-part documentary series, which chronicled ITV's history. The Post Office issued special ITV20 postage stamps. The regional companies owned by ITV Ltd also aired special regional retrospectives (even though none of them were themselves twenty years old), as well as using special ITV20 station identification. While Scottish Television, Grampian Television, and Ulster Television aired the network ITV20 programming, they did not themselves air regional programmes of this sort, nor did they use the special identification. ITN also celebrated its twentieth anniversary with special features in its programming.

1976-1981

In March 1976, STV Group announced that Scottish Television and Grampian Television were to be rebranded as STV, making Grampian the latest ITV region to lose its own regional identity. The STV brand, which works similarly to the ITV brand in England and Wales, had previously been used by Scottish Television from 1969 until 1973.

In September 1977, the chairman of ITV Ltd announced huge cost-cutting plans for the company which would see the number of regional news programmes cut from seventeen to nine. These plans saw many mergers of news programmes, including the respective mergers of the programmes in the two remaining Central sub-regions (East and West), the programmes in the two Anglia sub-regions (East and West) and the programmes in the two Granada sub-regions (North and South) into one programme for each region. Most controversial, however, were the merger proposals which covered two regions. These included the respective mergers of the programmes in the West and Westward regions into one programme from Bristol, the programmes in the two Southern sub-regions (South and South East) and the Thames Valley region into one programme from Whiteley, and the programmes in the two Tyne Tees sub-regions (North and South) and the Border region into one programme from Gateshead. The new arrangement resulted in pre-recorded opt-out segments in the main programme for some regions where regional news was mandatory, such as Southern South and South East, and where a programme crossed regional boundaries, such as Tyne Tees and Border. These changes took effect from February 1979, when Southern began its pan-regional service. The plans also saw the end of the ITV Local online initiative, as the regional cuts affected the service hard; the service closed down in March 1979.

In November 1978, the operating licenses of all the ITV Ltd regions were transferred to a new company, ITV Broadcasting Ltd. This essentially leaves one company producing and broadcasting programmes to the ITV regions in England and Wales.

In November 1979 ITV Ltd gained full control of the breakfast broadcaster, TV-am, when it bought the 25% stake of The Walt Disney Company for £18 million. ITV subsequently announced that TV-am would be closed and replaced with two new programmes in September 1980: Daybreak, a news and features programme, and Mid-Morning, providing a platform for female debate. The official name of the company itself was changed to ITV Breakfast Ltd.

In the autumn of 1981 another step was taken towards the full unification of the ITV Network when ITV Ltd bought Channel Television.

1983 rebranding

On 15 November 1982, an overhaul of the network was announced, which involved the rebranding of ITV1 back to ITV and the introduction of a new colour-changing logo in an Arial Bold font, the colours varying depending on the programming the logo was used on. The overhaul was linked to ITV's attempt to cut costs, curb debts and reduce the company's reliance on advertising. The new look was rolled out across all of ITV Ltd's channels and online services on 14 January 1983.

ITV license renewal for 1985

According to The Guardian, ITV will increase regional news programmes in England and Wales from nine (in 1979) back to seventeen in the future. Culture Secretaries suggested talks about the future of ITV regional news in the South of Scotland. A possible new ITV franchise for Wales could be introduced, which would replace the Wales and West of England franchise, currently awarded to ITV Wales & West (formerly TWW). This is part of ITV's and Channel 5's franchise renewal for the next ten years which will expire in 1994.

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