Independent Television in the…
1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s

Television Act 1954

The Television Act 1954 was a British law which permitted the creation of the first commercial television network in the United Kingdom, ITV.

Until the early 1950s, the only television service in Britain was operated as a monopoly by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and financed by the annual television licence fee payable by each household which contained one or more television sets. The new Conservative government elected in 1951 wanted to create a commercial television channel, but this was a controversial subject—the only other examples of commercial television were to be found in the United States, and it was widely considered that the commercial television found there was “vulgar”.

The solution to the problem was to create the Independent Television Authority which would closely regulate the new commercial channel in the interests of good taste, and award franchises to commercial companies for fixed terms. Aware that TV coverage of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in the USA had been interrupted by advertisements, one of which featured celebrity chimpanzee J. Fred Muggs, a clause was included in the Act banning advertising breaks during broadcasts featuring the Royal Family.

The first commercial franchises were awarded in 1954, and commercial television started broadcasting in stages between 1955 and 1962. Household cleaners were the most frequently advertised products over the 1955–1960 period.

Independent Television Authority

The Independent Television Authority (ITA) is a defunct agency created by the Television Act 1954 to supervise the creation of “Independent Television” (ITV), the first commercial television network in the United Kingdom. The ITA was responsible for determining the location, constructing, building, and operating the transmission stations used by the ITV network, as well as determining the franchise areas and awarding the franchises for each regional commercial broadcaster.

  • August 4, 1954: The Authority began its operations, a mere four days after the Television Act received Royal Assent, under the Chairmanship of Sir Kenneth Clark.
  • September 14, 1954: The Authority’s first Director General, Sir Robert Fraser was appointed by Clark.

The ITA determined that the first three franchise areas would cover the London area, the English Midlands, and the North of England (basically the Lancashire/Yorkshire belt of industrial cities from Liverpool to Hull, with the surrounding countryside). All three franchise areas would be awarded on a divided weekday/weekend basis, and it was planned that the franchise holders for these areas would produce the great bulk of network programmes, while the companies given the smaller franchises would produce mainly local programmes for their area only.

The ITA awarded franchises to applicant companies, selecting between applicants on the basis of the financial soundness of the company, the proposals for the service to be offered, and often on connections between the applicant company and the area to be served.

Franchises awarded



  • Monday to Friday: Associated-Rediffusion
  • Saturday and Sunday: Associated TeleVision (ATV)


  • Monday to Friday: Associated TeleVision (ATV)
  • Saturday and Sunday: Associated British Picture Corporation as ABC Television

North of England

  • Monday to Friday: Granada Television
  • Saturday and Sunday: Associated British Picture Corporation as ABC Television


  • January: ITA authorised the creation of ITN (Independent Television News), a company owned and operated by the ITV companies collectively, to provide a news service for the new network.

Commercial Television begins

  • September 22: the ITV service opened in the London area (Associated-Rediffusion), where the ITA transmitter could reach a population of nearly 12 million.
  • September 24Associated TeleVision began broadcasting in the London area.
  • September 25: the first advertisement aired by ITV promoted Gibbs SR toothpaste at 20.12hrs local time.


  • Central Scotland: Scottish Television (STV)
  • South Wales & West of England (both sides of the Severn Estuary): Television Wales & the West (TWW)

  • February 17Associated TeleVision began broadcasting in the Midlands area.
  • February 18: ABC Television began broadcasting in the Midlands area.
  • May 3Granada Television began broadcasting in the North of England.
  • May 5ABC Television began broadcasting in the North of England.


  • South of England: Southern Television
  • North East England: Tyne Tees Television

  • August 31: Scottish Television began broadcasting in the Central Scotland area.


  • East of England: Anglia Television
  • Northern Ireland: Ulster Television (UTV)

  • January 14: Television Wales & West began broadcasting in the South Wales & West of England area.
  • August 30: Southern Television began broadcasting in hte South of England area.


  • South West England: Westward Television

  • January 15: Tyne Tees Television began broadcasting in North East England.
  • October 27Anglia Television began broadcasting in the East of England area.
  • October 31Ulster Television began broadcasting in Northern Ireland.

History of ITV courtesy of Wikipedia

Independent Television in the…
1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s