ITV - 20 years since the big shakeup

ITV Network logo 1989
This New Year's Eve, it's twenty years since the UK's channel 3 network went through one of its biggest shakeups, preparing the way for the development of the ITV service we know now. Back then ITV consisted of numerous, strongly independent stations with a separate company running breakfast TV and London having two different ITV providers.

On 31st December 1992, broadcasters including Thames and TV-am aired their final day of programmes in their part of the ITV network. Their fate had been sealed in 1991, when the Independent Television Commission announced the winners and losers in the ITV/Channel 3 franchise round, which would determine the members of the ITV network from 1st January 1993.

The 20th anniversary comes weeks after the current Culture Secretary Maria Miller confirmed that there would be no repeat of the events of the early 1990s. Licences to operate Channel 3 services across the UK would be renewed when they expired, with only minor changes to region boundaries and programme commitments planned from 2015.

TV-am ITV Breakfast Franchisee 1982-1992There had been plenty of controversy over the 1991 franchise awards. Franchises were awarded not only to whoever bid highest; potential ITV companies had to pass a quality threshold to stop companies from bidding too high and not having enough money to spend on programming. ITV bigwig Thames Television was outbid by Carlton.

Sunrise - later renamed GMTV after Sky News objected to the name - paid £20 million more to run the ITV breakfast service than incumbent TV-am, leading to the demise of the Camden Lock-based breakfast broadcaster. Central kept its place on the ITV network despite bidding only £2,000.

TVS and TSW were disqualified due to their business plan and so Meridian and Westcountry Television entered the ITV network in their place, serving the South and South West of England.

Oracle Teletext service
Original plans for the franchise round did not factor in a new franchise for the teletext service. Oracle campaigned successfully to introduce a franchise for a teletext service beyond 1992 - and got outbid by Teletext Ltd - the company that until 2009 provided news and information pages on ITV, Channel 4 and S4C.

For several years, Teletext Ltd even operated Channel 5's text service under a separate arrangement.

The changing face of ITV in 1993:
31st December 1992
1st January 1993
HTV West and Wales
HTV West and Wales
LWT (London Weekend)
Oracle (Text)
Teletext Ltd                    
Thames (London Weekday)
TSW (South West)
TV-am (Breakfast)
TVS (South)
Tyne Tees
Tyne Tees
Breakfast: 0600-0925, regional franchises: 0925-0600. London weekday until Friday 1715.

The changes of the time also saw the introduction of the ITV Network Centre, whereby the schedule on ITV was set independently of the "big 5" ITV companies, with a minimum threshold of 25% of programming from independent production companies. Ironically, TVS had campaigned against the old system which saw it being excluded from primetime scheduling decisions. With the loss of its franchise, TVS never benefited from the new Network Centre. However, Thames lived on as an independent producer of programmes such as The Bill to the ITV Network.

At the same time, Channel 4 was spun off from the ITV companies and became a corporation. It began to sell its own airtime, and previous links to ITV, especially around schools programming were removed. At the end of the summer term of 1993, ITV Schools on Channel 4 with its iconic countdown titles came to a final close.

Broadcasting giants including Central, Granada and Yorkshire retained their right to be part of the ITV network, alongside minnows such as Border and Grampian -  but not without cost and eventually even these companies disappeared into broadcasting history.

20 years later, thanks to YouTube, we are now able to re-live some of the moments of the time:

The last five minutes of Thames TV, 31/12/1992, followed by launch of Carlton (Alijanlondon/YouTube)

The first ten minutes of Meridian Television (GLF Video/YouTube)

The first GMTV with Eamonn Holmes [Sky News] and Anne Davies [East Midlands Today](Everyone06/YouTube)
Live programming on New Years Morning on ITV... how things have changed!

ITV Schools on Channel 4 (ARTF/You Tube)
...the countdown gave the teacher plenty of time to settle their pupils down...!

Changes to ownership rules after the 1991 franchise round led to ITV companies taking each other over or merging. Yorkshire and Tyne Tees were allowed to merge in 1992 due to the delicate state of their finances, fresh from facing off competition for their franchises in their respective regions.

Carlton took over ITV cornerstone Central in 1994 and later Westcountry before "Carltonising" them both in 1999. Granada launched a hostile takeover of LWT. Granada's flagship daytime show This Morning moved from Albert Docks in Liverpool to beside the River Thames from LWT's South Bank Studios.

Further consolidation occurred in the following years, and by 2002 there was just two ITV companies left serving England, the Scottish Borders and Wales: Carlton and Granada. They merged in 2004, forming ITV plc - leaving STV, UTV and Channel Television as minority stakeholder organisations serving Scotland (except Borders), Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. Channel Television was taken over by ITV in 2011.

With one company dominating the network, the existing Network Centre structure could no longer stand with a major dispute between STV and ITV resulting in top ITV dramas being dropped from the STV schedule in 2011. In 2012, STV, UTV and ITV reached an agreement on how the network would continue. STV and UTV are now classed as affiliates of ITV and issues regarding catch up TV rights and HD simulcasting in STV and UTV regions have been ironed out, paving the way for the launch of STV HD and UTV HD on satellite in early 2013.

ITV: what will 2013 and beyond bring to the channel?The ITV plc owned regions now only exist on paper - for licensing purposes. At most, the current ITV West and Wales regions (ex-HTV) and the Border region may change by 2015 as a result of redrawing licence boundaries based on the Nations of the UK.

  From other sites
The last day of Oracle - MB21 Teletext Museum

TSW - TV Live

TVS - TV Ark 

History of LWT - Ultimate LWT

ITV history - is not responsible for the availablity or content of external links

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  1. Sucks that Channel was bought out by ITV in 2011. Although it does still occasionally opt out Thurs Nights @ 7:30pm. It of course has forced opt outs in the early hours when gambling stuff is shown due to the local Gambling laws.


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