Independent Television in the…
1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s

The Television Act 1954 was a British law which permitted the creation of the first commercial television network in the United Kingdom, ITV. It created the Independent Television Authority (ITA) which would closely regulate the new commercial channel in the interests of good taste, and award franchises to commercial companies for fixed terms.

The Sound Broadcasting Act 1972 gave the ITA responsibility for organising the new Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations. The ITA became the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

Broadcasting Act 1990

Margaret Thatcher‘s Conservative government spent much of the 1980s privatising and deregulating British industry, and commercial broadcasting was no exception. The Broadcasting Act 1990 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 Broadcasting Authority was abolished, and replaced by two new ‘light-touch’ regulators: the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and the Radio Authority. 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.

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, which had previously been an independent subsidiary of the IBA, 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.


  • April: Thames Television and LWT introduce the new ITV Night Time service.
  • April 29: HTV Wales and HTV West take up ITV Night Time.
  • August: TVS and Channel Television take up ITV Night Time.
  • September 2: Anglia takes up ITV Night Time.
  • October 16: Following the changes laid out in the Broadcasting Act 1990, a franchise round was announced by the ITC.

Franchises awarded

The following franchises were unopposed and were awarded their franchise by default:

  • Borders: Border Television
  • Central ScotlandScottish Television
  • East, West & South Midlands: Central Independent Television

The following franchises saw their competitors fail on quality grounds or business plan and were awarded their franchise by default:

  • Channel Islands: Channel Television
  • London (weekends): London Weekend Television
  • North of Scotland: Grampian Television
  • North West England: Granada Television
  • Northern Ireland: Ulster Television

The following franchises were the highest bidder and retained their franchises:

  • East of England: Anglia Television
  • North East EnglandTyne Tees Television
  • Wales & West of England: Harlech Television (HTV)
  • Yorkshire & LincolnshireYorkshire Television

The following franchises changed hands to higher qualified bidders:

  • London (weekdays): Thames Television lost out to Carlton Television
  • South & South East of EnglandTelevision South (TVS) lost out to Meridian Broadcasting
  • South West EnglandTelevision South West (TSW) lost out to Westcountry Television
  • National Breakfast ServiceTV-am lost out to Sunrise Television (later GMTV)
  • National Teletext ServiceORACLE lost out to Teletext Ltd


  • Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television renewed their alliance under the name Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television (YTTT) plc.
  • October 5: Following Yorkshire Television‘s buyout of Tyne Tees Television, a new overnight service for both stations was launched entitled Night Shift, broadcast across both regions from Leeds with pre-recorded continuity from the station’s announcing staff. Separate overnight presentation for the YTV and Tyne Tees areas was introduced two years later.
  • December 31: Thames Television lost their franchise.


  • January 1:
    • The new ITV franchise holder for London weekdays, Carlton introduced a new Nightime [sic] service, airing from Monday – Thursday nights and simulcast by Meridian and Channel Television.
    • Meridian Broadcasting launched replacing Television South.
  • January 2: Following Thames‘ loss of franchise, Anglia and HTV began taking Granada‘s Night Time, leaving LWT with its own overnight presentation – the network-branded 3 Nights, which featured some of LWT’s local programming.
  • December 6Granada Television launched a hostile takeover for LWT, worth £600 million. LWT tried to outstep the takeover bid by holding talks with Yorkshire Television and Scottish Television. Reports also suggested if LWT bidded for Yorkshire Television it would also form an alliance with Anglia who would takeover Tyne Tees Television.


  • Anglia Television was acquired by Meridian‘s owners, MAI.
  • January 7: Merger talks between Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television collapsed because it had proved impossible to reach an agreement on a suitable structure for the new company. A few days earlier Anglia had withdrawn from the proposed alliance, making an LWT takeover of YTV impossible.
  • JanuaryCentral was bought in its entirety by Carlton for £750 million.
  • February 25: Granada completed its takeover of LWT.
  • December 31Meridian and Channel cease showing Nightime.


  • January: Meridian introduced its own Night Time service and is joined by Channel and Anglia.
  • February 12: LWT‘s overnight service, 3 Nights, ceases broadcasting.
  • February 13London News Network (LNN, a subsidiary of Carlton & LWT) launched a revamped overnight service, ITV Night Time, featuring new neon-themed presentation (without any station-specific branding) and a year later, a brand slogan – “Television with Attitude”.
  • February 18: LWT takes up ITV Night Time.
  • February: Following the launch of the LNN service over much of the ITV network, Meridian‘s Nightime service expanded to seven days a week and began airing in the Anglia region.
  • May 15: Former TV-am chairman, Bruce Gyngell, became YTTT‘s managing director.
  • June 5: Initially broadcast in London only, ITV Night Time expanded to Grampian, Border, Granada, UTV, HTV Wales, HTV West, and Westcountry.
  • December 31HTV Wales, HTV West and Westcountry cease broadcasting ITV Night Time.


  • January 1Meridian‘s programming was adopted by HTV and Westcountry, who opted to run separate local presentation from HTV’s presentation centre in Cardiff.
  • September 2: Bruce Gyngell made the controversial move of re-branding Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television under the unified brand “Channel 3”, creating Channel 3 Yorkshire and Channel 3 North East.
  • September: Meridian relaunched its overnight service as The Edge, a service largely carried the same programmes provided by LNN with some regional opt-outs for programmes such as Meridian’s World of Sailing and Freescreen.
  • November 25: Carlton buys Westcountry for around £75m.


  • June:
    • United News & Media acquired HTV.
    • Following Scottish Television‘s name change to Scottish Media Group (SMG) the previous year, SMG bought out Grampian Television.
  • SummerYorkshire-Tyne Tees Television plc was acquired by Granada Group plc.


  • January 5ITV Nightscreen is launched as a scheduled programme consisting of a sequence of animated pages of information about ITV‘s upcoming programmes, features and special events, with an easy listening music soundtrack.
  • March 8: Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television‘s Night Shift ended.
  • March 9:
    • Following their acquisition of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television, Granada‘s first move was to scrap the “Channel 3” branding.
    • Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television adopt ITV Night Time.
  • Late: STV and Grampian introduce Nighttime TV.


  • September 6: Central is rebranded Carlton Central, and Westcountry, Carlton Westcountry.
  • November 9: Carlton and Granada relaunch ITV Night Time, which is also broadcast to Border, LWT, Central, Tyne Tees, UTV and Yorkshire. Further stations join the following year.

History of ITV courtesy of Wikipedia

Independent Television in the…
1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s