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Associated British Corporation (otherwise known as ABC Television or ABC Weekend Television) was one of a number of commercial television companies established during the 1950s by cinema chain companies in an attempt to safeguard their business by becoming involved with television which was taking away their cinema audiences.In this case, the parent company was the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), which initially did not wish to become involved with the new broadcasting system, but were persuaded to do so by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) and the manager of their Pathé News subsidiary Howard Thomas, who became the new company's managing director.


When Kelmsley Winnick, one of the consortia that had been awarded a franchise in 1954 collapsed, the ITA approached ABPC to step into the breach. Accordingly, the Corporation agreed to assume the franchises to broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays to the Midlands and the North of England. The contract agreeing to do so was signed on 21 September 1955, the day before Independent Television (ITV) began in Londonmarker.

This gave the new ABC five months to begin broadcasting in the Midlands, the service beginning on 18 February 1956. Soon afterwards, they were also up and running in the North - they began broadcasting there for the first time on 5 May 1956. They were aided in part by the failure of the original contractor; Kelmsley-Winnick had ordered over £1 million (2008 equivalent:£18.8m) of production equipment from manufacturer Pye which they sold to ABC at a much discounted price .

ABC's original presentation style was criticised by the ITA for being bland and too much attached to the existing ABC Cinemas brand. Accepting this criticism, ABC Television developed a strong corporate identity, effectively becoming the first British TV station to recognise the importance of corporate branding. Its new animated logo showed three triangles joining up to form a larger triangle (in geometry the points of a triangle are often labelled 'A', 'B' and 'C'), accompanied by a xylophone playing 'la-te-doh' (or 'A-B-C' on the tonic sol-fa).

Networked programmes from ABC included the drama series Police Surgeon,The Human Jungle, Redcap, The Avengers, the series of one-off plays in ABC's Armchair Theatre, the popular shows Thank Your Lucky Stars and Oh Boy!, the children's science fiction program Emerald Soup, plus the gritty dramas Callan and Public Eye (both of which continued as Thames productions after 1968).

Weekend franchises were ended - except in the London area - during the 1967 round of franchise renewals. ABC then looked further afield, hoping for the London weekend franchise, although they also chose the new Midlands seven-day contract as a second choice.


ABC operated three production sites and had a further sales office. The main production facilities were the former Warner Studios located at Teddingtonmarker, Middlesexmarker. Although outside of their contract area, ABC operated a Londonmarker base as many celebrities couldn't venture outside of the capital to record programmes as they were often starring in theatre plays in the West Endmarker. Upon the merger with Rediffusion this site became the main production base for the new company Thames Television and is still in use as an independent facility, Teddington Studiosmarker.

Within their constituency ABC operated a northern studio centre, converted from a former Capitol cinema in Didsburymarker, Manchestermarker. They also had a sales office based in Television House in the centre of the city. Following the merger the studios were leased to Yorkshire Television in 1967 for recording pre-launch programming whilst their own studios were being constructed and in 1970 was sold to Manchester Polytechicmarker and was the base for their theatre and television school. After moving to the University's All Saints campus, the site was demolished in 1996 to make way for blocks of flats.

In the Midlands they formed a joint venture with Midlands weekday licensee ATV to oversee the running of a production and transmission facility to be used by both. Alpha Television Limited purchased a former cinema in Astonmarker, near Birminghammarker and extended it by the construction of additional studios and office space; the site was known as the Alpha Studios.

During 1968 ABC vacated the premises as a result of its move to London. Faced with high costs for converting the studios to colour production ATV opted to build new studios in the heart of Birmingham, subsequently named Alpha Towermarker. During 1970 they also left the site and Alpha Television went into voluntary liquidation and the site sold. In 1974 the commercial Independent Local Radio station BRMB bought the centre and converted it into a radio station, remaining there until the late 1990s. The original cinema has since been demolished but the additional office space still remains.

The 1968 Contract Round

In the event, ABC were offered the London weekdays franchise on condition that it formed a joint company with Rediffusion, London. This was agreed, with profits being shared equally between the two but with ABC maintaining control over the new company, Thames Television.

Thames Television in turn lost its franchise during the 1991-2 round of franchise renewals, although the company continues to exist as an independent programme producer, now a part of the FremantleMedia Group and known as Talkback Thames.

Names used

Company names:
  • Associated British Cinemas (Television) Limited (1955-1968)
  • Associated British Corporation (1966-1970s on exports and on continuing productions on Thames)

On-air names:
  • Associated British (1956)
  • ABC Television (1956-1968)
  • ABC Weekend Television (1964-1968)

Initials used:
  • ABC (1956-1968)

Nicknames used:
  • All Bloody Commercials (joke nickname attributed to Bob Monkhouse)

Slogans used:
  • ABC - Associated British Corporation in the North (1956-1958)
  • ABC - Associated British Corporation in the Midlands (1956-1958)
  • ABC, your Weekend Television (1958-1964)
  • ABC, your Weekend Television in the North (1964-1968)
  • ABC, your Weekend Television in the Midlands (1964-1968)


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