Independent Television began as a network of independently-owned regional companies that were both broadcasters and programme makers, beginning with four companies operating six stations in three large regions in 1955-1956, and gradually expanding to 17 stations in 14 regions by 1962. Each regional station was responsible for its own branding, scheduling and advertising, with many peak-time programmes shared simultaneously across the whole network.
By 29 February 2016, 12 regions shared the national ITV branding and scheduling (for England and Wales), and together with a 13th region UTV (for Northern Ireland), were owned by a single company, ITV plc. A further two regions in Scotland carry STV branding and are owned by the STV Group.
The ITV network came about as a result of the Television Act 1954, which paved the way for the establishment of a commercial television service in the United Kingdom and created the Independent Television Authority (ITA). The act itself was not without controversy, and much debate ensued both in the British Parliament and the British Press, and it was passed on the basis that the ITA would regulate the new service and ensure that the new service did not follow the same path taken by the American networks (which were perceived as 'vulgar' by some commentators). For example, it was made obligatory that commercials be clearly distinguishable from programmes. At the time, programmes in the USA were normally sponsored by a single company, so it was not uncommon for a game show host to step away from his podium after a round to sell cars or The Flintstones to segue into an ad for cigarettes with no perceived change from show to advertising.
The new "Independent Television" network, named due to its independence from the BBC which until then had a monopoly on broadcasting within the United Kingdom, was made up of numerous companies providing a regional television service and would also generally provide programmes to the network as a whole. Each individual company broadcast on 405-line VHF and was responsible for providing a local service, including daily news bulletins and local documentaries, and for selling advertising space on their channel: this measure ensured that all the ITV companies were in competition with each other and that no single broadcaster could gain a monopoly over commercial broadcasting. However, national news was not provided by the individual companies and was instead provided by Independent Television News (ITN). Each regional service had its own on-screen identity to distinguish it from other regions, since there was often a sizeable overlap in reception capability within each region.
Upon the creation of the network, six franchises were awarded for London, the Midlands and the North of England with separate franchises for weekdays and the weekends. The companies in these regions were known as 'The Big Four' and consisted of Associated-Rediffusion (London weekday), ATV (Midlands weekday and London weekend), Granada Television (North of England weekday) and ABC (North of England and Midlands weekend). These companies were generally the best known and provided the most network output.
The first ITV contractor to begin broadcasting was the London weekday contractor Associated-Rediffusion, on 22 September 1955 beginning at 7.15pm. On the first night of telecasts, the BBC, who had held the monopoly on broadcasting in Britain, aired a melodramatic episode of their popular radio soap opera The Archers on the BBC Home Service (later became BBC Radio 4 in 1967). In the episode, core character Grace Archer was fatally injured in a fire, and it was seen as a ploy to keep loyal viewers and listeners away from the new station. The first full day of transmissions was 23 September 1955 when Britain's first female newsreader Barbara Mandell appeared. The London weekend contractor ATV launched two days later.
The other franchises launched within a year of the London launch, and other contracts were awarded by the ITA between 1956 and 1961. All the franchises launched by September 1962:
|Franchise awarded||Launch date||Regional area||Programme company|
|26 October 1954||22 September 1955||London (weekday)||Associated-Rediffusion|
|24 September 1955||London (weekend)||Associated Television (ATV)|
|17 February 1956||Midlands (weekday)|
|21 September 1955||18 February 1956||Midlands (weekend)||ABC Weekend TV|
(Originally awarded to Kemsley-Winnick Television on 26 October 1954)
|26 October 1954||3 May 1956||North of England (weekday)||Granada Television|
|21 September 1955||5 May 1956||North of England (weekend)||ABC Weekend TV|
(Originally awarded to Kemsley-Winnick Television on 26 October 1954)
|30 May 1956||31 August 1957||Central Scotland||Scottish Television (STV)|
|26 October 1956||14 January 1958||South Wales and West of England||Television Wales and the West (TWW)|
|22 July 1957||30 August 1958||South of England
(and South East England from 31 January 1960)
|13 December 1957||15 January 1959||North East England||Tyne Tees Television|
|25 June 1958||27 October 1959||East of England||Anglia Television|
|10 November 1958||31 October 1959||Northern Ireland||Ulster Television (UTV)|
|16 December 1959||29 April 1961||South West England||Westward Television (WTV)|
|5 May 1960||1 September 1961||English-Scottish Border
(and Isle of Man from 26 March 1965)
|2 August 1960||30 September 1961||North East Scotland||Grampian Television|
|28 March 1960||1 September 1962||Channel Islands||Channel Television (CTV)|
|6 June 1961||14 September 1962||North and West Wales||Wales (West and North) Television (WWN, "Teledu Cymru")|
ITV was admitted as an active member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) through the Independent Television Companies' Association Ltd (ITCA) together with the Independent Television Authority (ITA) in 1959.
In 1963, the ITA chairman, Lord Hill of Luton, initiated a review of all the ITV companies following the release of the Pilkington Report, which saw the launch of BBC2 and heavily criticised ITV. This review would review a company's performance, and either grant them an extension to their service licence or replace the company with another in that region. This process was repeated frequently throughout the early life of ITV and lasted approximately ten years. Reviews like this also ensured that the companies maintained their high performance by maintaining the possibility of the loss of their licence. The new licences also included clauses which took into account the promised ITV2 UHF channel, promised to be launched if the Conservative Party won the 1964 general election.
Despite the review, no company lost its position as the local ITV contractor for their region and all licences were extended for another three years (starting July 1964), although several of the major companies were instructed to strengthen the regional emphasis of their on-screen identities. The only change to the network was the formation of a single Wales and West franchise, operated by TWW, following the collapse of WWN and its subsequent takeover by TWW. WWN ran into trouble when it had problems with the construction of its transmitter network, as well as strict provisions in its contract to produce a large amount of Welsh-language programming. This meant that WWN lost a lot of money and, despite some help from other ITV companies, it declared itself bankrupt on 26 January 1964 -- the only ITV company to have ever done so.
Overall, the regional companies made a profit within the first few years of their existence; the largest regions especially so. Roy Thomson, the Canadian founding chairman of Scottish Television, described the ownership of an ITV franchise as "a licence to print money".
Another franchise review was called by the ITA on 12 June 1967, for contracts running from the end of July 1968, that was to drastically change the structure of ITV itself. The review aimed to ensure that the ITV system was ready for the impending arrival of colour broadcasting, and also to again allow for the potential start of ITV2, should the Conservatives win any general election held after 1970. The behaviour of some of the companies only reinforced the ITA's assumptions of 'arrogance' following the few changes in the last franchise round: Rediffusion London's department managers also popped up in similar roles for rival applications and TWW reapplied for their contract under both their own name and that of WWN/Teledu Cymru as a tax dodge. As a result, Lord Hill had made it clear in 1966 that "all bets were off" on the next franchise round and that the regions themselves might change. Therefore, in the period between the interviews of each applicant and the announcement of the changes, the newspapers speculated wildly about the likely changes: suggestions were made of Scottish Television exiting the system, Rediffusion London moving to replace Southern Television and various other wild ideas.
In the end, the changes made to the ITV regions were as follows:
The ITV companies themselves changed considerably. Some merely had their contracts changed, while others were replaced altogether by new companies. The changes were as follows:
In addition, the Independent Television Publications company was formed to produce a national ITV programme schedule listings magazine. This magazine was called the TVTimes, originally the title of the London listings magazine (and also briefly used by the Midlands magazine). It replaced all of the regional magazines, except the Channel Islands publication, which continued until 25 October 1991.
Before the changes were implemented, however, the prime minister Harold Wilson appointed Lord Hill as chairman of the BBC Board of Governors and replaced him with Herbert Bowden, also known as Lord Aylestone. He reviewed the changes Hill had made, but allowed them to stand.
The implementation of the ITV changes led to industrial unrest in the companies. Although there were no job losses in the system - this was an ITA stipulation - people were forced to move from Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds, from London to Cardiff and, perhaps less troublesome, from one part of London to another. Many staff stayed in the same jobs in the same locations, but now had a different employer. Since this meant that staff were being made redundant (albeit with a guaranteed job to go to), the unions required redundancy payments. However, these payments led to problems in staff not receiving them, who were changing company but not location, as in the case of the Teddington Studios. The unions asked for payments to be made in those cases; the companies responded by drawing the line, and wildcat strikes broke out in the weeks before and after the changes came into effect.
By Friday, after the changes, a mixture of strike action and management lock-outs had taken ITV off the air, and for most of August 1968 the regional network was replaced with a single national service run by management. By September 1968, with both sides claiming victory, all workers had returned to work. However, memory of this strike would cause more industrial unrest in the decades that followed.
This era also saw the introduction of colour television to the network and the introduction of the new 625-line system. During the 1960s, some commercial companies proposed the introduction of colour on the 405-line system, but the General Post Office insisted that colour should wait until the higher-definition 625-line UHF system became standard.
ITV eventually introduced PAL colour on this system from 15 November 1969, simultaneous with BBC1 and two years after BBC2. This did not, however, spread immediately across the United Kingdom, but some regions had to wait a few more years before colour was available:
|ITV region||Colour service date|
|Associated Television (ATV)||15 November 1969|
|Yorkshire Television (YTV)|
|London Weekend Television (LWT)|
|Thames Television||17 November 1969|
|Southern Television||13 December 1969|
|Scottish Television (STV)|
|Harlech Television (HTV)||4 April 1970|
|Tyne Tees Television||17 July 1970|
|Ulster Television (UTV)||14 September 1970|
|Anglia Television||1 October 1970|
|Westward Television (WTV)||22 May 1971|
|Border Television||1 September 1971|
|Grampian Television||30 September 1971|
|Channel Television (CTV)||26 July 1976|
This was primarily due to the cost incurred in purchasing new broadcasting equipment and the subsequent studio upgrade that usually accompanied it.
The colour strike was an industrial action by technicians at all ITV companies from 13 November 1970 to 8 February 1971 (although some shows made during this period in black and white were having their first transmission as late as December 1971) who, due to a pay dispute with their management, refused to make programmes in colour.
Colour was available to nearly 100% of the United Kingdom from 1976, with the Channel Islands being the last region to be converted. This enabled the 405-line system to be phased out between 1982 and 1985.
The British government imposed early close downs of all three television channels (including BBC1, BBC2 and ITV) from 17 December 1973 in order to save electricity during the Three-Day Week crisis. The early close downs forced ITV to end their broadcasting day at 10.30pm, thus costing the network much of its advertising revenue. The restrictions were lifted temporarily on 24 December 1973 (Christmas Eve) to allow the public to enjoy festive programming. The restrictions recommenced on 7 January 1974, and the restrictions ended on 8 February 1974.
Following the passing of the Sound Broadcasting Act 1972, the ITA was reconstituted as the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) who took on the same role as the ITA but were also were given responsibility of the then-new Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations.
The next franchise round in 1974 produced no changes in contractors, as the huge cost in switching to colour television would have made the companies unable to compete against rivals in a franchise battle. It also allowed the companies to recoup the cost and to return to normal service. Some slight changes were made to the Yorkshire Television franchise area however, as the Belmont transmitter in Lincolnshire switched from Anglia Television to Yorkshire Television, boosting the broadcast area. Also the Bilsdale UHF transmitter, based on the border between Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television and much disputed over, was assigned to Tyne Tees Television.
The IBA during this period allowed Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television to consolidate slightly into a new venture: Trident Television. Trident originally managed advertising sales for Tyne Tees Television and Yorkshire Television but was allowed a reverse takeover of both companies; Tyne Tees Television and Yorkshire Television did however retain their own studio bases, management, boards and on-screen identity.
This period also saw the launch of the Oracle teletext service. It was officially launched in 1978, a few years after the launch of the BBC's Ceefax service and offered news and information delivered through the remaining lines of information in the television transmission. The service began to see improved takings following a heavy promotional campaign using the slogan Page the Oracle and the inclusion of the software as standard in most new television sets at the beginning of the 1980s.
ITV suffered an eleven-week industrial dispute in 1979, leading to the subsequent shutdown of almost all ITV broadcasts and productions. It began at London's Thames Television when electricians (EETPU members) refused to accept what they considered to be a derisory pay increase. Management attempted to operate a normal service but other transmission staff (ACTT members) refused to co-operate, pointing out that equipment and wiring turned on by non-EETPU members could be potentially dangerous. Thames management interpreted this as a walkout. When Thames' management consequently ordered the striking staff to "return or else" the broadcasting union the ACTT instructed members at thirteen other ITV stations to walk out in solidarity. The only company unaffected was Channel Television as the unions realised that industrial action there could lead to the station's closure as its small audience made it vulnerable to any loss of advertising revenue.
Viewers encountered blank television screens on the morning of 10 August 1979, and were left without any programmes, such as soap opera Coronation Street as well as various sporting events. Only two ITV companies broadcast anything other than a specially-made apology caption during this time, those being Channel Television, who broadcast a time-restricted service of local programming, films and imported television series (on film, as Channel had no videotape facilities at the time) and in the Yorkshire Television region, who interrupted their strike card to broadcast appeals on behalf of the West Yorkshire Police in their hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.
The strike ended with victory for the unions in a dispute estimated to have cost the companies £100 million in lost revenue. Programming resumed at 5.38pm on Wednesday 24 October 1979. Returning viewers were greeted with a new jingle, "Welcome home to ITV", sung by the Mike Sammes Singers.
The first night's schedule back after the strike was filled by either imported material or programmes already "in the can" before the strike commenced. Both Crossroads and Coronation Street aired special introductions to their first episodes back, to inform viewers of the events in both soaps, where they left off back in July 1979.
The first night schedule was networked from Thames Television in London to all ITV regional companies across the United Kingdom as part of their national emergency schedule, and was as follows:
But after that, ITV closed down for their first night back on air at around 1.00am.
When the strike ended, ITV had the task of luring back viewers from the BBC. This proved difficult as production of original programming had stopped and would not be available for several months; ITV therefore suffered in the ratings at the hands of the BBC. Two and a half months after ITV began broadcasting again, it was finally ready to air additional original programming and viewers began switching back. This strike was to be the last major strike for ITV as the power of the broadcasting unions began to wane, even though minor disputes plagued the television industry in the 1980s, and the dispute was the longest in the history of British television.
Noted that The Muppet show was not broadcast to Westward of Channel Television, instead both opting for their local news. 
On 28 December 1980, the IBA announced via Lady Plowden, the then chair of the IBA, that it had reviewed the ITV broadcasting licences again, for contracts beginning on 1 January 1982. A few changes were made to the ITV structure, with the creation of dual regions for the South and South East, and the East and West Midlands. These regions were created following the push for more regional news. The company operating these regions had to provide a regional news service for both regions and provide studio facilities in both areas. The franchise round concluded with the following changes:
This period saw the ITV companies, and the BBC, expand their services further into the day than previously. A large part of this was a result of the franchising of a breakfast service in 1980. TV-am was awarded this contract and given a provisional start date of May 1983. There had been other programmes previously, such as Yorkshire's Good Morning Calendar, which had shown that the public were interested in a breakfast service. As a result, TV-am and the BBC rushed their own services to the air. TV-am would broadcast between the hours of 6.00am and 9.25am every morning; the somewhat obscure 9.25 close time came about in order to allow time to switch transmitters from the breakfast broadcaster over to the regional ITV stations; today this transition is seamless, though the anomaly remains. TV-am launched as a serious news programme on 1 February 1983; however, it changed its format soon after to attempt to copy the success of the BBC's Breakfast Time.
Another expansion came on 14 September 1987, when ITV Schools programming was transferred to Channel 4 (and S4C), freeing up a large section of the daytime schedule for new shows. This expansion in programming, and in advertising time, helped give the stations a boost.
1987 also saw the companies beginning to move into night-time broadcasting. This began with individual efforts by individual companies, primarily the 'Big Five' (Thames Television, LWT, Central Independent Television, Granada Television and Yorkshire Television), before collaborative efforts resulted in the whole network operating 24 hours a day by the autumn of 1988. Notable efforts included Granada Television's Night Time (which also went out to Tyne Tees Television, TSW, Border Television, Grampian Television and Ulster Television), LWT's Night Network (which also went out to Anglia Television), TVS' Late Night Late (which also went out to Channel Television) and HTV's Night Club; later efforts included ITV Night Time from Thames Television and LWT (which also went out to TVS, HTV, Anglia Television and Channel Television) and Night Shift from Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television.
Channel 4 had launched on 2 November 1982, originally it built on the ITV network for its funding, whereby the ITV companies sold Channel 4's airtime. This arrangement ended on 31 December 1992, after which a 'funding formula' continued, whereby the ITV companies would subsidise Channel 4 if it fell into the red. However, it never did, and the funding formula was withdrawn in 1998. During this 16-year period, Channel 4 and ITV would regularly cross-promote each other's programming, free of charge.
Another new venture was the ITV Telethon, this biennial routine event held in 1988, 1990 and 1992, saw the regional companies and the national network come together to raise money for charity. The 27-hour telethons were eliminated following the change of culture at ITV following the franchise changes in 1993.
ITV introduced its first official corporate logo and national on-air identity on 1 September 1989; this was an attempt to unify the network under one image while still allowing for regional identity. However, six companies refused to use their versions of the generic ident (Granada Television, TVS, TSW, Anglia Television, Channel Television and Ulster Television), preferring to stick with their distinctive on-screen branding. The companies to use the generic ident for the longest time were Yorkshire Television, who kept it on until 24 October 1994, and Grampian Television, who continued to use it right up until ITV's second corporate logo was introduced on 5 October 1998.
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 small Cable Authority was also abolished, its powers transferred to the ITC. 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. This element of the ITV franchising process was very controversial; the press and the existing ITV companies lobbied to have it changed and the ITC agreed to introduce a 'quality threshold' to prevent high bidders with poor programme plans from joining the system. Another safeguard was the 'business plan' which determined if a bidder could maintain the payments due and still retain money for programme making.
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.
One further change in the 1990 Act related to the way the ITV networking system was run. Since the 1960s, the Independent Television Companies' Association's Programme Controllers' Committee, representing the 'Big Five' network companies (Thames, LWT, Central, Granada and Yorkshire) had decided which programmes had aired in network programme time slots. This had the effect of excluding smaller ITV companies, as well as independent production companies. Following lobbying by independent producers and TVS, the Act required that ITV's scheduling be performed by a nominated person independent of the regional companies, and that a 25% threshold of independent production be required. This led to the creation in 1992 of the ITV Network Centre, a central body in charge of the network schedule, with, for the first time, a single ITV Director of Programming.
Following the changes laid out in the Broadcasting Act 1990, a franchise round was announced by the ITC on 16 October 1991 for licences beginning 1 January 1993. A number of companies bid for the licences including:
|Franchise||Incumbent and bid||Competition and bid||Results||Winner|
|Borders||Border Television £52,000||unopposed||unopposed||Border Television (by default)|
|Central Scotland||Scottish Television (STV) £2,000||unopposed||unopposed||Scottish Television (by default)|
|Channel Islands||Channel Television (CTV) £1,000||CI3 Group £102,000||CI3 Group failed on quality grounds.||Channel Television (by default)|
|East, West and South Midlands||Central Independent Television £2,000||unopposed||unopposed||Central Independent Television (by default)|
|East of England||Anglia Television £17,800,000||Three East Television (3ETV) £14,100,000;
|Incumbent highest bidder. CPV-TV failed on quality grounds.||Anglia Television (highest bidder)|
|London (weekdays)||Thames Television £32,700,000||CPV-TV £45,319,000;
Carlton Television £43,200,000
|CPV-TV failed on quality grounds.||Carlton Television (highest qualified bidder)|
|London (weekends)||London Weekend Television (LWT) £7,590,000||London Independent Broadcasting (LIB) £35,400,000||London Independent Broadcasting (LIB) failed on quality grounds.||London Weekend Television (by default)|
|North of Scotland||Grampian Television £720,000||North of Scotland Television (NSTV) £2,710,000;
Channel 3 Caledonia (C3C) £1,130,000
|North of Scotland Television (NSTV) and Channel 3 Caledonia (C3C) both failed on quality grounds.||Grampian Television (by default)|
|North East England||Tyne Tees Television £15,100,000||North East Television (NETV)£5,010,000||Incumbent highest bidder.||Tyne Tees Television (highest bidder)|
|North West England||Granada Television £9,000,000||North West Television (NWTV)£35,000,000||North West Television (NWTV) failed on quality grounds.||Granada Television (by default)|
|Northern Ireland||Ulster Television (UTV) £1,010,000||Television Northern Ireland (TVNI) £3,100,000;
Lagan Television £2,710,000
|Television Northern Ireland (TVNI) failed for business plan. Lagan Television failed on quality grounds.||Ulster Television (by default)|
|South and South East England||Television South (TVS) £59,800,000||Meridian Broadcasting £36,500,000;
Carlton Television £18,100,100
|Television South (TVS) failed for business plan. CPV-TV failed on quality grounds.||Meridian Broadcasting (highest qualified bidder)|
|South West England||Television South West (TSW) £16,100,000||
TeleWest Broadcasting £7,270,000
|Television South West (TSW) failed for business plan. TeleWest Broadcasting failed on quality grounds.||Westcountry Television (highest qualified bidder)|
|Wales and West of England||Harlech Television (HTV) £20,500,000||Merlin Television £19,400,000;
Channel 3 Wales & West (C3WW) £18,300,000;
|Incumbent highest bidder. Channel 3 Wales & West (C3WW) failed on quality grounds.||HTV (highest bidder)|
|Yorkshire and Lincolnshire||Yorkshire Television (YTV) £37,700,000||Viking Television (VTV) £30,100,000;
White Rose Television (WRTV) £17,400,000
|Incumbent highest bidder. Viking Television (VTV) failed on quality grounds.||Yorkshire Television (highest bidder)|
|National Breakfast Service||TV-am £14,100,000||Sunrise Television £34,600,000;
Daybreak Television £33,200,000
|Sunrise Television highest bidder.||Sunrise Television, later GMTV (highest bidder)|
The following notes apply to the 1991 franchise round:
As a direct result of the franchise bid:
All other existing ITV companies retained their regional franchises. Due to their bids being barred on business plan grounds and therefore deemed 'too high', TSW and TVS attempted to obtain a judicial review of the ITC's decisions, and of the wording of the 1990 Act. Accordingly, the ITC held off awarding the contract to Westcountry Television until the review was completed. As the contract with Meridian Broadcasting had already been agreed, the court felt unable to conduct a review of that decision. The review of the South West franchise process took several months, but was decided in favour of the ITC.
The relaxation in the franchise ownership rules, as a result of the 1990 Act, meant that mergers between ITV companies were now possible; this was further enhanced by the passing of the Broadcasting Act 1996, which relaxed the rules even further. As a result, companies began to take each other over to increase efficiencies and to expand.
In 1992, Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television merged again, creating Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television plc. The two companies were permitted to merge before their existing arrangements expired in June 1992, due to the marginal nature of both companies' finances, and a need to rationalise the two companies before the franchise handover date. Takeovers began in earnest in 1994, as Carlton Television took over Central Independent Television having held a stake in the company since 1987, Granada Television bought LWT in a hostile bid and MAI, owners of Meridian Broadcasting, took over Anglia Television. As a result of the latter, Anglia Television's presentation and playout facilities were moved to Meridian Broadcasting's base in Southampton. In 1996, Carlton Television bought Westcountry Television and increased its stake in Central Independent Television to 81%. Then, in 1997, Granada Television acquired Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television and moved the presentation and playout of Granada Television, Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television to The Leeds Studios, while Scottish Media Group (SMG), which owned Scottish Television, acquired Grampian Television and began to consolidate staff at its studio base in Glasgow. Also in 1997, United News and Media, the evolution of MAI and owner of Meridian Broadcasting and Anglia Television, purchased HTV; however, few departments were consolidated.
By 1999, the four groups owned the majority of the ITV franchises: Granada Television, Carlton Television, United News and Media (UNM) and the Scottish Media Group (SMG), with Ulster Television, Channel Television and Border Television remaining independent. From here, the companies further consolidated their channels. On 8 November 1999, a new, hearts-based on-air look was introduced and adopted by the Granada Television and UNM regions, along with Border Television and Channel Television. This look reduced regional identity to a design at the conclusion of the ident: the majority of the ident was generic to all the stations. Two months before, on 5 September 1999, Carlton Television dropped the Central Independent Television and Westcountry Television names from their on-air presentation, instead branding these regions as Carlton Television, and using the same presentation for all three regions. In the summer of 2000, following an unsuccessful attempt to merge with Carlton Television, UNM sold its three stations - Meridian Broadcasting, Anglia Television and HTV - to Granada Television. However, Granada Television had to sell the broadcasting arm of HTV to Carlton Television to comply with the then-current regulatory requirements. In July 2001, Granada Television acquired Border Television from Capital Radio Group and moved presentation and play-out facilities to Leeds.
In addition to franchise mergers, in 1998 the Independent Television Association and Network Centre formally merged, becoming "ITV Network Limited". At the same time, a new lower-case ITV network logo was introduced at the same time for use around the network and includes the tagline: "TV from the heart". The new logo design was meant to appear friendlier to the viewer.
Throughout this period, the ITV companies sought to expand into the new, multi-channel environment forming in the United Kingdom. On 1 October 1996, Granada Television launched four channels through a joint venture with BSkyB entitled Granada Sky Broadcasting. These four channels, Granada Plus, Granada Good Life, Granada Men & Motors and Granada Talk TV, respectively focused on repeated entertainment programming from the Granada Television archives, women's lifestyle programming, programming for men and televised interactive debating. Granada Talk TV closed down on 31 August 1997 after only ten months on air due to low viewership, while Granada Good Life rebranded to Granada Breeze on 1 May 1998. In September 1996, Carlton Television launched Carlton Food Network, a cable-only cookery channel, and on 1 November 1996, a joint venture between Scottish Television and BSkyB was launched, entitled Sky Scottish, and aimed mainly at Scots who lived outside Scotland. While Sky Scottish closed on 31 May 1998 due to low viewership, Carlton expanded its channels, launching Carlton Select on 14 February 1997 followed by Carlton Cinema, Carlton Kids and Carlton World on 15 November 1998. However, all but Carlton Cinema closed shortly into the new millennium, mainly due to low viewership and cost-cutting in light of the cost of funding ONdigital.
Despite these larger companies having launched their own services a few years previously, Granada Television, Carlton Television and UNM collaborated to launch a new service on 7 December 1998: ITV2. The new channel expanded network ITV programmes and launched on multiple services, giving additional appeal to the style of ITV itself in light of new competition from channels operating on satellite, cable and more recently digital terrestrial television (DTT). However, ITV2 only launched in England and Wales, leaving SMG, Ulster Television and Channel Television to use the multiplex space in their respective regions to whatever purpose they saw fit. As a result, SMG launched S2 on 30 April 1999 and Ulster Television launched TV You (later UTV2) on 28 June 1999, both offering similar programming tailored for their region. By 22 January 2002, however, both channels had ceased and were replaced by ITV2 itself.
On 1 August 2000, ITN, the news producer for the ITV Network, launched the ITN News Channel in a joint venture with NTL (now Virgin Media), which provided rolling news on cable, satellite and digital terrestrial. Following the increase in ITV-branded channels and services, including ITV2 and ITV Digital, the decision was taken by Carlton Television and Granada Television to rename the ITV Network in their regions as ITV1 on 11 August 2001.
Another venture initiated by Carlton Television and Granada Television was jointly bidding for the newly created DTT licence. The companies jointly bid with BSkyB for the licence under the company name British Digital Broadcasting and won; however, BSkyB was forced to withdraw following competition laws. Carlton Television and Granada Television launched the service on 15 November 1998 as ONdigital, and ran the service that housed other free-to-air channels. However, BSkyB had launched its own service, Sky Digital, the previous month and following a heavy promotional campaign by Sky, which compared the Sky Digital service to ONdigital's service and always to Sky's benefit, ONdigital started making heavy losses. In a resort to keep the venture afloat, Carlton Television and Granada Television used the name of ITV to boost the success of the company. The newly named ITV Digital launched on 11 July 2001, complete with an expensive advertising campaign featuring Al and Monkey, and an exclusive deal to air the Football League on the newly created ITV Sport Channel. However, the venture was still not bringing the results required and ITV Digital went into administration on 27 March 2002, with the ITV Sport Channel closing two months later. This led to criticism of Carlton Television and Granada Television from SMG, Ulster Television and Channel Television which objected to the ITV name being reduced following the collapse of the service.
From 2002, the ITV Network began to consolidate again. On 28 October 2002, the Carlton Television and Granada Television regions adopted a new presentation package featuring the network's celebrities, which resulted in the regions becoming known as ITV1 at all times, the region names only appearing prior to regional programmes. This look also marked the centralisation of continuity in the Carlton Television and Granada Television regions to London, with the exception of Wales.
The pinnacle of ITV's consolidation was the merger of Carlton Television and Granada Television in 2004. The two companies had previously tried to merge twice before in the 1990s; however, the government and competition laws prevented this from occurring. But on 21 October 2003, the government announced that it would no longer prevent a merger from taking place, subject to safeguards being set in place to ensure the continued independence of SMG, Ulster Television and Channel Television. Carlton Television and Granada Television finally merged at the end of January 2004, with Granada Television shareholders owning 68% of the new company, ITV plc, and Carlton Television shareholders owning the remaining 32%. ITV plc was floated on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol 'ITV' on 2 February 2004. The new company owned all the ITV regions in England, Wales and the Scottish Borders. The choice of the name "ITV plc" was controversial, since it could imply that the company ran the entire network, and an agreement had to be reached with SMG, Ulster Television and Channel Television before the name could be used.
The day of the merger was marked by significant changes throughout the ITV plc regions. All of the ITV plc regional news programmes received a new look in line with the national ITV News bulletins and the regional company logos were replaced officially with an ITV logo followed by the company name below - these began to appear on production captions and as part of other branded output, such as weather summaries. As a result of the merger, ITV plc was faced with a surplus of facilities it no longer needed. Studio and production facilities were replicated many times over, many of which were becoming costly to maintain due to age and difficult to justify following technological advancements. As a result, regional news moved into smaller offices and studio facilities were sold off. Anglia Television's separate studio facility was sold off as an independent studio, as was HTV's main studio in Cardiff. However, Tyne Tees Television' Newcastle studios and Meridian Broadcasting's Southampton studio complex were closed completely and demolished, both broadcasters moving to smaller regional news bureaux. The reduction in the size of the organisation and in the number of transmission centres resulted in a large number of job cuts.
ITV plc reviewed its digital channel portfolio. In June 2002, Carlton Television and Granada Television jointly bought the ITN News Channel from ITN, renaming it the ITV News Channel three months later (although the service was still produced by ITN). On 31 March 2003, the final Carlton-owned channel, Carlton Cinema, closed; the channel had been struggling ever since the failure of ITV Digital. Following the success of ITV2, compared to the Granada and Carlton-branded channels, a further channel - ITV3 - was launched on 1 November 2004. The channel replaced Granada Plus and aired archive programmes, notably drama. On 1 November 2005, ITV plc launched another new channel aimed specifically at men: ITV4. This channel became notable for airing programmes such as classic 1960s ITC Entertainment series and alternative sports such as the British Touring Car Championship. The new channel featured a new-look ITV logo, which was officially rolled out across the network on 9 January 2006. The new look was more coherent than previous looks, and was also voluntarily adopted by Channel Television. 2006 also saw the launch of the CITV channel, which used the airspace previously used by the ITV News Channel which had closed down on 23 December 2005, and of the participation television channel ITV Play, which turned out to be controversial and closed down the following year.
ITV plc began to look at high-definition television on 9 June 2006, when it launched an experimental channel, ITV HD, primarily for airing the 2006 FIFA World Cup (to which ITV held the rights) and classic films. ITV HD was launched as a permanent channel in June 2008, showing its own schedule of programmes in HD acquired by ITV plc. The channel re-branded as ITV1 HD in December 2009, before becoming a full simulcast of ITV1 on 2 April 2010. The launch of the simulcast service saw the end of the last Granada channel, Men & Motors, which was closed down on 1 April 2010 to make room for ITV1 HD on other platforms. On 7 October 2010, ITV plc launched ITV2 HD, an HD simulcast of ITV2, followed on 15 November by ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD. All three of these channels were initially only available on the Sky platform.
In June 2005, Ofcom, the channel's regulator since the demise of the Independent Television Commission at the end of 2003, announced huge reductions in the licence fees payable by the Channel 3 contractors (and Five). This move reflected the significant shift towards digital viewing in the UK, and the British government's desire to switch off analogue television signals altogether by 2012. Licence fees fell further as the shift to digital continued. Ofcom also significantly relaxed most of the remaining public service requirements on the ITV contractors; regional non-news output was a significant casualty of these cutbacks, with most regions now broadcasting no more than two hours a week in this category. An experimental internet service, ITV Local, attempted to unite regional content through an on-line user experience that combined regional news, local programming and other features.
In September 2005, the ITV network celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a season of ITV 50 programming that was run on the network, including a run down of ITV's 50 top programmes, a World of Sport retrospective, a seven-week Gameshow Marathon presented by Ant & Dec, the launch of an "Avenue of the Stars", and most notably a five-part documentary series made by Melvyn Bragg, which chronicled ITV's history.
The Royal Mail issued special ITV 50 postage stamps, and the regional companies owned by ITV plc also aired special regional retrospectives (even though none of them were themselves fifty years old), as well as using special ITV 50 station identification. While Scottish Television, Grampian Television, and UTV aired the network ITV 50 programming, they did not themselves air regional programmes of this sort, nor did they use the special identification. ITN also celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with special features in its programming.
In March 2006, SMG plc announced that Scottish Television and Grampian Television were to be rebranded as STV, making Grampian the latest ITV region to lose its own regional identity. The STV brand, which works similarly to the ITV brand in England and Wales, had previously been used by Scottish Television from 1969 until 1985.
In September 2007, the then chairman of ITV plc, Michael Grade, announced huge cost-cutting plans for the company which would see the number of regional news programmes cut from seventeen to nine. These plans saw many mergers of news programmes, including the respective mergers of the programmes in the two remaining Central sub-regions (East and West), the programmes in the two Anglia sub-regions (East and West) and the programmes in the two Yorkshire sub-regions (North and South) into one programme for each region. Most controversial, however, were the merger proposals which covered two regions. These included the respective mergers of the programmes in the West and Westcountry regions into one programme from Bristol, the programmes in the two Meridian sub-regions (South and South East) and the Thames Valley region into one programme from Whiteley, and the programmes in the two Tyne Tees sub-regions (North and South) and the Border region into one programme from Gateshead. The new arrangement resulted in pre-recorded opt-out segments in the main programme for some regions where regional news was mandatory, such as Meridian South and South East, and where a programme crossed regional boundaries, such as Tyne Tees and Border. These changes took effect from February 2009, when Meridian began its pan-regional service. The plans also saw the end of the ITV Local online initiative, as the regional cuts affected the service hard; the service closed down in March 2009.
In November 2008, the operating licences of all the ITV plc regions were transferred to a new company, ITV Broadcasting Ltd. This essentially leaves one company producing and broadcasting programmes to the ITV regions in England and Wales.
In November 2009, ITV plc gained full control of the breakfast broadcaster, GMTV, when it bought the 25% stake of The Walt Disney Company for £18 million. ITV subsequently announced that GMTV would be closed and replaced with two new programmes in September 2010: Daybreak, a news and features programme, and Lorraine, named after presenter Lorraine Kelly and providing a platform for female debate. The official name of the company itself was changed to ITV Breakfast Ltd.
In the autumn of 2011, another step was taken towards the full unification of the ITV Network when ITV plc bought Channel Television.
On 15 November 2012, an overhaul of the network was announced, which involved the rebranding of ITV1 back to ITV and the introduction of a new colour-changing logo stylised as handwriting, the colours varying depending on the programming the logo was used on. The overhaul was linked to ITV's attempt to cut costs, curb debts and reduce the company's reliance on advertising. The new look was rolled out across all of ITV plc's channels and online services on 14 January 2013.
According to The Guardian, ITV will increase regional news programmes in England and Wales from nine (in 2009) back to seventeen in the future. Culture Secretary Maria Miller suggested talks about the future of ITV regional news in the south of Scotland. A possible new ITV franchise for Wales could be introduced, which would replace the Wales and West of England franchise, currently awarded to ITV Wales & West (formerly HTV). This is part of ITV's and Channel 5's franchise renewal for the next ten years which will expire in 2024.
On 19 October 2015, it was announced that ITV plc would purchase UTV Media's TV interests for £100 million, subject to regulatory approval. Unlike other franchises owned by ITV, UTV will retain its brand name. The sale was finalised with ITV taking control of UTV on 29 February 2016.
The following notes apply to the 1991 franchise round: