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Associated TeleVision, often referred to as ATV, was a Britishmarker television company, holder of various licenses to broadcast on the ITV network from September 24, 1955 until December 31, 1981.

Formation

The company was formed from the merger of the Associated Broadcasting Development Company, known as ABDC and under the control of Norman Collins, and the Incorporated Television Programme Company, known as ITC and under the control of Prince Littler and Lew Grade, two showbusiness agents.

Both companies had applied for a contract to become one of the new ITV stations. ABDC won the contract but had insufficient money to operate it; ITC failed to win a contract, mainly due to a perceived conflicts of interest resulting from the existing business operations of Grade and Littler. By the time of the merger ABDC were well advanced with their plans whilst ITPC planned to operate as an independent producer selling their shows to the new network contractors.

When financial problems hit ABDC the governing body of ITV, the Independent Television Authority invited Grade and Littler to join the ABDC consortium. This provided the money required and put Littler and Grade in real control of the new company, effectively sidelining Collins.

The new company was originally known as the Associated Broadcasting Company (and therefore ABC), but Associated British Corporation's parent company, who wished to call their station ABC and also ran a large chain of cinemas under those initials, successfully sued for prior ownership. The name change took place after ABC had been operating for three weeks; the new name chosen was Associated TeleVision Ltd, producing the initials ATV. The company's logo, originally designed for ABC and tweaked for the newly renamed ATV was a "shadowed eye", which was inspired by the CBS logo and reputedly designed by Lew Grade on a transatlantic flight back from the US. The logo is one of the most recognisable in broadcasting.

ATV Music

As a side note to ATV's television activities, the company also set up a music publishing division. This was known as ATV Music and existed initially to publish TV-related music, such as theme tunes, composed by its in-house composers. This company was eventually split away from the parent company and went through numerous different owners as well as buying into other established music publishers including Northern Songs, which was The Beatles publishing company. ATV Music eventually settled into the hands of Michael Jackson before being merged into Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

Broadcasting

ATV (as ABC at first) began broadcasting in its own right on Saturday September 24, 1955 (after jointly presenting the network's opening night on Thursday September 22). The name ATV was first seen in London on Saturday October 8, 1955. The company had won two ITV contracts, the weekend contract for Londonmarker and the Monday–Friday contract for the Midlandsmarker. The latter service opened on February 17, 1956, with, ironically, ABC providing the weekend programmes.

The new company ran into further financial difficulty due to the staggering losses of the first two years of ITV and the start-up costs. The London weekday contractor Associated-Rediffusion shouldered some of ATV's losses and further funding was achieved by selling shares in the company to the Daily Mirror newspaper. The company structure was changed several times until 1966, when ATV and ITC both became subsidiaries of the Associated Communications Corporation (ACC), formed by turning the old structure on its head. This marked the point where Lew Grade advanced from being the greatest influence over the company to taking actual control.

ATV's main impact on the early ITV service was in the field of variety and light entertainment.

In the contract and region changes in 1968, ATV lost the weekend franchise in London to the new London Weekend Television, but its Midlands contract was renewed for the full seven days instead. The weekday/weekend "split-service" ended in the North and Midlandsmarker with the 1968 franchise round, continuing only in the Londonmarker area. At this point the company renamed itself as ATV Network Limited.

In 1969, in readiness for colour broadcasting in the UK, a large new 'state of the art' television studio known as ATV Centremarker was built off Broad Street, near the centre of Birminghammarker, to replace the former Alpha Studios in Astonmarker, run in partnership with ABC, the other franchise holder in the region.

The Broad Street site was in use until 1997 although two of the production studios had been 'mothballed' in the early 1990s as demand for production studios fell. The former ATV Centre is currently in the process of being demolished to be replaced by the Arena Central development. The Alpha Tower will survive as it is a listed building.

A documentary is currently being made about the Broad Street studios complex. Entitled 'From ATVLand In Colour' (referring to the nickname used on Tiswas, and the building being purpose-built for colour broadcasting), the documentary features presenters, actors, announcers and behind-the-scenes staff talking about their time working in the studios, and the programmes that were made there. Contributors include Chris Tarrant, Shaw Taylor, Jane Rossington and Bob Carolgees.

End of franchise

During the 1970s ATV had received much criticism over its lack of local programming, particularly for the east of its region; such critics held that any local shows had a Birmingham-centric focus.

In 1981 the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) decided that ATV's lack of regional programming and production (it had a major studio centre at Elstreemarker in Hertfordshiremarker, a legacy of its London contract and well outside of its Midlands franchise) was hampering the region, so it insisted that the new applicant for the franchise be more clearly based in the region and have separate facilities for the East and West Midlands.

ATV Midlands Limited, a shell company created by ACC solely for the franchise process, applied successfully for the contract. As a condition of its award, ACC was forced to divest itself of 49% of the company, relinquish executive roles, sell its studios in Elstreemarker and rename the company to demonstrate that it was effectively a new business.

At 12:30am on December 31, 1981, after many New Year's Eve programmes on ATV and a New Year's Day weather report, Shaw Taylor, who was with the network in the mid-1950s, talked about how he felt about the outgoing ATV and the incoming Central Independent Television.

Following that, the digital clock of ATV was seen for the final time (although Central kept this clock for a few years), and ATV's final closedown started with these final words: "The time now is 32 minutes and 53 seconds past midnight. Have a peaceful night and I hope you enjoy New Year's Day." The organ version of God Save the Queen, specially recorded for ATV, was played for what would be the final time, before the picture faded to black. Associated TeleVision had ceased broadcasting for good after over 26 years. Exactly 8 hours and 23 minutes later, Central began broadcasting.

The new company name was registered as Central Independent Television plc and the new logo, advertised as being a UFO, appeared on 1 January 1982. Central inherited the studios at ATV Centre, Birminghammarker and ATV Elstreemarker along with land that ATV Midlands had purchased for their new Nottinghammarker studio centre. The new company also maintained control of ATV's news archive and regional programmes, plus programming already in production or being shown at the time of changeover; the rest of the ATV archive was sold on by ACC.

The new contract stipulated an immediate start for separate East and West Midlands facilities. Planning issues delayed construction at the Nottingham site so Central purchased an independent production studio in the city (at Giltbrookmarker) to act as its East Midlands newsroom. Industrial action prevented this centre from being used however, with the new studios ready by the time it was resolved.

In 1983 the Elstree centre was sold to the BBC for an undisclosed sum. In 1984 the East Midlands Television Centre in Lenton Lane, Nottingham was opened by the then Prime Minister, the Rt.Hon Margaret Thatcher, MP.

ACC later divested itself of the remainder of Central after the Australian investor Robert Holmes à Court staged a boardroom coup and forced Lew Grade to cede control.

ACC remained in control of ITC and Stoll-Moss Theatres until ITC was sold to Polygram International Television—coincidentally bringing Lew Grade back into control of ITC until his death in 1998. Stoll-Moss Theatres, the last remaining part of ACC, was sold to the Really Useful Group in 2001.

Carlton Communications had spent much of the 1980s and 1990s buying up the intellectual property of the former ACC, including the rights to the ATV logo and company name, the ATV news archive (via its purchase of Central) and finally both the ATV and ITC archives, before itself being swallowed-up by Granada.

Recent changes have seen Granada Ventures take over Carlton, and all of ATV's national archive programming has been taken into their ownership. The regional news archive from ATV and Central, plus some regional programmes, are now stored at the Media Archive for Central England in Nottingham. This archive is located at Nottingham University, which by coincidence now own the former Central Studios in the City where the archive is kept.

ATV Network Limited was 'dissolved' as a company in 1992; however, just like Rediffusion, it made a strange comeback many years later. Just as Victor Lewis-Smith bought the rights and logo to Rediffusion many years ago, so too in 2006 "ATV Network Limited" was revived as a company brand independent of Granada and its previous archive.

The "new" ATV are based in theatre production (Protos Theatre and Arts Group) and have no involvement with television. The company is only in operation for copyright and legal reasons concerning the theatre group.

The original ATV logos and branding remain registered trademarks of a minor subsidiary of ITV plc.

Names used

Company names:
  • Associated Broadcasting Company Limited (1954–1955)
  • Associated TeleVision Limited (1955–1964)
  • Associated TeleVision Corporation (1964–1966)
  • Associated Communications Corporation (1966–1982)—parent company
  • ATV Network Limited (1966–1982)
  • ATV Midlands Limited (1981) - This is the company that was renamed to Central Independent Television from 1 January 1982, and still exists as the licence holder for the ITV Midlands region.


On-air names:
  • Associated Broadcasting Company (22 September 1955–October 1955)
  • Associated TeleVision (1955–1966)
  • ATV London (1964–1968)
  • ATV Midlands (1964–1969 but referred to in continuity until 1982)
  • ATV Network (1966–1981) (always branded on-air as simply 'ATV')


Initials used:
  • ABC (22 September 1955–October 1955)
  • ATV (1955–1968)


Popular programmes

The majority of ITC programmes were first broadcast on ATV and distributed in the UK by them. Similarly, ATV's productions were distributed by ITC outside of the UK, with most ATV idents replaced with those for ITC.

ATV zoom 2

In use from the launch of transmissions in colour on ITV from November 15, 1969 until December 31, 1981, zoom 2 was the internal name of a short 10-second animated film which preceded all ATV-produced programmes broadcast on the ITV network, and presentations of purchased material within the region. So-called 'station identities' (idents) would inform ITV viewers in the United Kingdom of the originating local ITV company that had produced, and was ultimately broadcasting across the network, the following programme; the ATV ident therefore indicated when a programme made by ATV was about to begin. Various ATV idents were used over the lifetime of the company, but the 'zoom 2' is the best remembered. The music was composed by Wally Stott, a prolific TV composer, whose work included the Hancock's Half Hour theme.

Versions

Birmingham versionsWhen the film was put through an older colour telecine machine, one in which the colorimetry was working incorrectly, a blue background version aired. This frontcap was often seen with a blue background when it preceded programmes from the Birminghammarker studios of ATV. Crossroads & Tiswas are some examples of this. The Birmingham studios were equipped with older telecine machines because they were not ATV's main production centre (which was in Borehamwoodmarker, Hertfordshiremarker, very close to the Elstreemarker Film Studios).

But, in the early days of colour ATV, there were two different versions of the animation itself. One was used for the Borehamwood studios (which is the version explained below) and one with a different sounding fanfare for the programmes coming out of Birmingham (the only ATV Birmingham programme being seen in other ITV regions at this time was Crossroads.) The use of two different versions of the jingle was abandoned after the ITV technicians' strike of 1970-1971. During this period, ITV did not stop broadcasting, but the programmes made in this period by all ITV companies were made using the colour cameras with only black-and-white camera tubes inserted in them. After the colour strike ended, both the ATV studios adopted the Borehamwood version of "zoom 2".

Borehamwood VersionThere were two versions of the Borehamwood zoom 2 animation itself. These are not clearly visible but when the ATV logo forms up, you can see the differences. The first one was used by ATV from the start of colour transmissions in 1969 up until the ITV strike of 1979. As stated earlier, this was used for Borehamwoodmarker programmes only at first & was then adopted by the Birminghammarker studios in 1971. This had vertical lines going all the way through the ATV logo as it formed up from the white dot.

The second version was used from the resumption of services in 1979 up until the company's demise in 1981. The reason for the replacement of the original is unknown, although it may have been that the colour quality of the original had started to deteriorate because it had been overused in the telecine machines (ATV made a lot of programmes for ITV during the 1970s). This version had lines similar to those described in the previous paragraph except that they only went in the shape of the ATV logo.

Transition to Central

When ATV became Central on 1 January 1982, a "Central Presents" caption would be used before the usual ATV frontcap on programmes produced before the change.Although this practice ended around December 1982 on first-run programmes (live programmes used the Central frontcap), schools programming continued to start like this until sometime in 1984 as most schools programmes by this time had been firmly established as repeats.

External links



References

  1. Associated TeleVision history at Independent Teleweb
  2. 'From ATVLand In Colour', a documentary about ATV and Central's Broad Street studios



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