60 years of ITV

It was one of the biggest moments in radio: the death of Grace Archer from long-running BBC radio soap The Archers pulled in a estimated 20 million listeners.

It was also the first clash between the BBC and its rivals: Grace Archer's death coincided with the launch of Independent Television on 22nd September 1955.

It became just the first of many competitive scheduling clashes between the BBC and ITV.

Independent Television (ITV) wasn't originally the name of the channel, rather it was a label to identify the growing number of regional stations, independent of the BBC, that were contracted to provide programmes to the Independent Television Authority for their respective regions in their respective timeslots.

Initially only available in London, Independent Television spread across the UK, reaching all regions by 1962. All stations shared independent national and international news from ITN, alongside a core schedule of prime-time programmes. Of the stations that originally launched as part of the network, only Ulster (UTV) and Scottish (STV Central Scotland) remain serving the area they were originally licenced to serve. Granada TV, also one of the original ITV stations is now part of ITV plc following the merger of it and Carlton that completed in 2004. 

ITV always set out to reach the mass-market with its schedule based around light entertainment shows and dramas. Initially, there was some snobbery about ITV, but in its heydays millions tuned in to watch some of it most iconic shows. Coronation Street is the longest-running show: it debuted in 1960.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the regionalised ITV system reached its heyday - quiz shows such as Bullseye, Blockbusters, Catchphrase and The Krypton Factor live on today thanks to quiz channel Challenge. Saturday nights saw the late Cilla Black bringing people together in Blind Date. Matthew Kelly presented You Bet, based on the German show Wetten Dass? Jeremy Beadle pounced on unsuspecting members of the public in Beadle's About and later presented You've Been Framed. Drama was provided courtesy of long-running shows including The Bill and Inspector Morse and US imports such as LA Law and Murder, She Wrote. Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean provided classic comedy moments for the network. Children's ITV provided younger viewers with a vast array of British made children's programmes including Press Gang, Children's Ward, Knightmare, Art Attack and the soon-to-be-relaunched Dangermouse. Husband and wife team Richard and Judy launched This Morning from Liverpool's Albert Dock in 1988 and set the tone for daytime TV for decades to come. World in Action was ITV's main current affairs show, not afraid to pull any punches.

In 1989 a new ITV logo was unleashed across the network, something that overshadowed any previous attempts at creating an ITV brand. The new logo and associated branding featured in programme trails, idents, a new common national weather service and programme end-caps, with each station adapting the new look to their needs, although some stations refused to show their version of the new ITV ident.

Then it all changed: instead of being contractors to the regulator, from the early 1990s, ITV companies became licence holders of a franchise to operate a service on channel 3 in their part of the UK. In 1991, regulator ITC announced sweeping changes to who would operate services on the ITV network from 1993 - changes that would see London's Thames TV lose out to Carlton and TV-am being replaced by what became known as GMTV.

During the 1990s, ITV companies were permitted to merge or acquire other ITV stations, until by the early 2000s, only Carlton and Granada remained in England, Wales and the Scottish Borders, when the main ITV station became known as "ITV1".  ITV2 had launched back in 1998. ITV Sport Channel was on-air in 2001/2002. ITV News Channel, the rebranded ITN service, appeared in 2002.

Meanwhile, north of the border STV took over Grampian TV and created a single channel identity for most of Scotland. On Monday, former ITV chairman Michael Grade told BBC Scotland that STV was "defying gravity" by remaining an independent company.

The failure of ITV Digital in 2002, a joint venture between Carlton and Granada drained resources, and the main ITV channel began to showcase a large number of cheaper scripted or reality show formats, including Survivor, I'm a Celebrity, Holiday Showdown and Pop Idol.  By the early 2000s, many of ITV's long-running shows were coming to a natural end or being axed - shows including Blind DateHeartbeat, Inspector Morse and Peak Practice. New shows including a revamped Crossroads failed to create much impact. Long running Australian soap Home and Away was lost to Channel 5. The loss of Richard and Judy from This Morning created a problem for ITV daytime before Philip Schofield and Fern Britton took over and resurrected the show. Competition for the channel's viewers was fierce, with viewers defecting to new digital channels. Hit quiz show Who wants to be a Millionaire temporarily kept viewers tuned in around the turn of the century, but even its influence waned after the first person won a million pounds.

In 2004, Carlton and Granada's merger was completed: ITV plc was born: a single ITV for the majority of the UK. It ultimately brought considerable cuts to ITV's regional structure, leaving just a basic news service in most regions. ITV3 launched by the end of year, followed a year later by ITV4.

By 2006, ITV began rebuilding its schedule. It moved children's programming off the main channel outside of weekend breakfast on to the new CITV channel. It revamped Sunday evenings with Dancing on Ice and Wild At Heart and resolved to become less reliant on the soaps on Sundays. The launch of Lewis was the start of rebuilding drama on ITV. By then, The X Factor and Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway had become a staple of Saturday evenings. ITV also began to test an HD service for the first time.

In 2010, ITV struck drama gold with the launch of Downton Abbey. Broadchurch followed in 2013, and both were lapped up by international broadcasters. By 2013, the "1" was dropped from the main ITV channel's name, the channel simply now known as "ITV". In 2014, ITV expanded its portfolio further with the launch of pay TV channel ITV Encore and free-to-air ITVBe.

Now, ITV plc is rumoured to be preparing to buy UTV's television assets, meaning that ITV could soon control all but two of the former regions that made up the original network. But with shows like The X Factor showing signs of fading and Downton Abbey coming to an end it seems likely that as ITV turns 60 another refresh is due as another chapter prepares to be written in the history of ITV.

See more of the presentation and history of ITV: external links

Share on Google Plus


Post a Comment

IMPORTANT: This post is open for comments for a limited period (usually 14 days) following its upload date. You can comment with a Google Account (e.g. for G+, Gmail, YouTube, Google Play)
Comment not appearing? Comments may be subject to moderation and as such may not immediately appear on the site - comments will wait in the moderation queue until they are processed. Check back later. (Comments submitted anonymously may fail the spam filters.)

Please note: Some types of comments may be removed at the discretion of a516digital. With freedom of speech comes responsibility: Keep it clean, civil and on-topic! See the "About this website" section (link at the foot of the page) for full terms and conditions about what is and what isn't acceptable on this site.