London Weekend Television (LWT) was the ITV network franchise holder for Greater London and the Home Counties at weekends between 1968 and 2002. From 1968 until 1992, when LWT’s weekday counterpart was Thames Television, there was an on-screen handover to and from LWT; from 1993 to 2002, when LWT’s weekday counterpart was Carlton Television, the transfer occurred invisibly during a commercial break as Carlton and LWT shared studio and transmission facilities.
Like most former ITV regional franchises the London weekend franchise is now operated by ITV plc.
20th Century Key Dates
- June 12, 1967: The 1967 franchise review called by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) extended franchises to 1976, then 1979, and finally December 31, 1981. The review also abolished the weekday/weekend split, except in London. The weekend franchise, which was owned by Associated TeleVision (ATV) was offered to the London Television Consortium (LTC) led by TV presenter, David Frost, which included BBC1 controller, Michael Peacock, assistant head of BBC comedy, Frank Muir, Rediffusion‘s Controller of Programmes, and theatre director Peter Hall.
- August 2, 1968: The LTC, renamed London Weekend Television (LWT), began broadcasting in London at weekends from Friday 7pm from Rediffusion’s Wembley site. LWT had been obliged by the ITA to employ Rediffusion’s staff who, having previously worked weekdays and now had to work weekends, demanded extra pay for unsocial hours. With the dispute unsettled, 15 seconds into the opening night technicians went on strike and screens went blank. An emergency service was provided by ATV.
- September 9, 1968: The dispute resolved, LWT suffered poor ratings figures and viewers moved to Saturday night broadcasting by BBC1. Other ITV stations, including ATV refused to show LWT productions. At a Network Programme Committee meeting, chairman Lew Grade declared his dislike for David Frost and dropped his major Saturday night slot, replacing him with comedian Dave Allen.
- September, 1969: Michael Peacock was sacked, and six LWT executives resigned in support. Following a petition, ITA set up an enquiry into the deepening crisis at LWT.
- September 18, 1970: LWT introduced its most recognisable “River” ident, with a blue/white/red stripe moving across a black background in the shape of the letters L, W, and T, dropping the “Television” part of the name.
- November, 1970: Following the withdrawal of financial backing by the General Electric Company (GEC), they sold their share to Rupert Murdoch‘s News International.
- December, 1970: Rupert Murdoch became a part-time executive and increased his share from 7.5% to 30%, insisting David Frost’s contract be immediately terminated.
- February, 1971: Rupert Murdoch became managing director and, by the end of 1971, his share in LWT had risen to 39.7%. Murdoch began restructuring but more board members left. The ITA was unhappy at how he was able to buy his way in considering foreign nationals were legally blocked from owning ITV contractors.
- March 9, 1971: The ITA had forced Rupert Murdoch from the chairmanship of LWT and installed John Freeman, who had presented Face to Face for the BBC, as chairman and chief executive. The 1970s saw improved fortunes for LWT.
- September 1, 1978: The “River” ident is modified to show the full name as well as the striped LWT logo.
- November, 1978: News International sold 16% of its shares, holding 25%.
- August 10, 1979: ITV viewers see blank screens due to a strike by Thames Television technicians over pay.
- October 24, 1979: Following the 10-week ITV technicians’ strike, programming resumed at 5.38pm.
- November, 1979: LWT had been hit hard by the technicians’ strike. The company believed that had only lost £200,000 over the course of the dispute, its losses offset by their acquisition of tour operator “Page & Moy”.
- March 13, 1980: News International sold its remaining 25% share.
- April, 1980: Reports revealed that LWT’s profits were down £2m.
- November, 1980: Although LWT’s turnover had increased from £70.5m the previous year to £80.5m, it had become clear that profits had remained roughly the same.
- December 28, 1980: The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), created in 1972 to replace the ITA, announced it had reviewed ITV licences for contracts beginning January 1, 1982. LWT was successful in its re-application for the weekend licence.
- January, 1982: John Birt became LWT’s new Programme Director, replacing Michael Grade who had joined in 1973. Birt began overhauling the schedules and reviewed spending budgets for all departments.
- January 1, 1982: LWT extended its broadcasting hours on Friday evenings, taking over from Thames Television at 5.15pm, making them contractually responsible for providing news programmes on Fridays. They began broadcasting short London News Headlines bulletins.
- January 8, 1982: LWT begins broadcasting a regional magazine show, The Six O’Clock Show, hosted by Michael Aspel. The programme included a 15 minute Thames Weekend News bulletin produced by Thames Television. LWT News bulletins were introduced in 1988.
- January, 1983: LWT drops in-vision announcers.
- September 9, 1983: A new local ident is introduced bearing the company slogan “Your Weekend ITV”.
- August 29, 1986: A new set of CGI idents are introduced. “Genesis”, seen on networked productions until December, 1987, in which the stripes fold on letter by letter. “Solari”, only seen in the London region, contained a vertical Venetian blind effect.
- April, 1987: Greg Dyke moved from TVS to LWT, replacing John Birt as Director of Programmes. Dyke had worked at LWT in 1978 before moving to the nationwide breakfast service TV-am in 1983.
- January 8, 1988: LWT Newswas launched providing at least eight bulletins of local news, sport and weather during the weekend.
- October 7, 1988: The Six O’Clock Show had been axed in July and was replaced by a smaller-scale current affairs programme called Friday Now! The show was axed after 10 months in July, 1989.
- September 1, 1989: LWT adopted the first ITV generic look until August 30, 1992. Six O’Clock Live, an hour-long news programme launched, presented by Frank Bough, incorporating LWT News bulletins.
- October 16, 1991: Changes laid out in the Broadcasting Act 1990, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) that had replaced the IBA, led to the announcement of another franchise review. LWT was re-awarded the weekend franchise but the weekday service was given to Carlton Television. The new contracts would start January 1, 1993.
- September 4, 1992: LWT replaced the ITV generic ident with a large 3D logo with two versions, involving ‘flying blocks’ and ‘flares’.
- January 3, 1993: LWT News is replaced by a new seven days a week news service jointly run by LWT and Carlton Television, in a venture known as London News Network.
- December 6, 1993: Granada Television launched a hostile takeover for LWT, worth £600m. 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.
- January 7, 1994: 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.
- February 7, 1994: Granada increased its takeover bid for LWT to £774m, but this was rejected.
- February 25, 1994: Granada completed its takeover of LWT with an accepted bid of £770m.
- August 30, 1996: LWT introduced an updated ident and logo with six different versions.
- November 12, 1999: LWT adopted the second ITV generic look based on a ‘heart’ theme but became the only company to drop the look in March, 2000, replacing it with a ‘video wall’ theme.
Notable LWT Programming
|We Have Ways of Making You Laugh (1968)||The Big Match (1968-1992)||World of Sport (1965-1985); LWT from 1968||Please, Sir! (1968-1972)||On The Buses (1969-1973)|
|Catweazle (1970-1971)||Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975)||Weekend World (1972-1988)||Within These Walls (1974-1978)||It’ll Be Alright on the Night (1977-)|
|Mind Your Language (1977-1979)||Play Your Cards Right (1980-2003)||The Gentle Touch (1980-1984)||Game for a Laugh (1981-1985)||The Six O’Clock Show (1982-1988)|
|Whoops Apocalypse (1982)||Clive James/Keith Floyd on Television/ Tarrant on TV (1982-2006); LWT 1982-1996||Surprise, Surprise (1984-2001)||Me and My Girl (1984-1988)||Saint & Greavsie (1985-1992)|
|Blind Date (1985-2003)||The Two of Us (1986-1990)||Beadle’s About (1986-1996)||London’s Burning (1986, 1988-2002)||You Bet! (1988-1997)|
|Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013); LWT 1989-2002||Second Thoughts (1991-1994)||Gladiators (1992-2000)||The Knock (1994-2000)||Faith in the Future (1995-1998)|