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ITV is a public service network of British commercial television broadcasters, set up under the Independent Television Authority (ITA) to provide competition to the BBC. ITV is the oldest commercial television network in the UK. Since 1990 and the Broadcasting Act 1990, its legal name has been Channel 3, the number 3 having no real meaning other than to distinguish it from BBC One, BBC Two and Channel 4 - prior to this, the network had no legal overall name. In part, 3 was assigned as televisions would usually be tuned so that the regional ITV station would be on the third button, the other stations being allocated to that of the number their name contained.

ITV is to be distinguished from ITV plc, the company that resulted from the merger of Granada plc and Carlton Communications in 2004 and which is the parent of ITV Broadcasting Limited to whom all of the Channel 3 broadcasting licences in England, Wales, the Scottish/English Border and the Isle of Manmarker were transferred in November 2008. Similarly ITV1 is the brand used by ITV plc for the Channel 3 service in these areas, with STV and UTV using their own brands in their own respective areas (North and Central Scotland and Northern Ireland).


ITV digital channels viewing share 2000-2008
Unlike practically all of the TV channels in the United Kingdom, ITV is not owned by one single company, although it has come close to becoming so in recent years. Ofcommarker has issued licences to four companies to provide regional Channel 3 services. ITV Broadcasting Limited provides the service for 10 regions in England Wales plus the Scottish borders and the Isle of Man, with a separate weekday and weekend licence for the London region. For Scotland, STV Central Limited holds the licence for the central Scotland, and STV North Limited holds the licence for northern Scotland, including the Hebrides, Orkney, and Shetland Islands, with both services carrying on air branding as stv. Ulster Television Limited was issued the licence for Northern Ireland and is branded as utv. In the Channel Islands, the licencee is Channel Television Limited which carries ITV-1 branding. The licences were last put out to full tender in 1991, and have since been renewed and modified on a rolling basis.

Additionally, Channel 3 has since 1983 included a national breakfast franchise for the period between 06:00h and 09:25h, with the licence currently issued to GMTV, and has a national contractual teletext provider.

National teletext provider

The Public Teletext Licence allows the holder to broadcast a text-based information service around the clock on Channel 3 (as well as Channel 4 and S4C) frequencies. Teletext on ITV had been provided since 1974 by ORACLE, and since 1993 is provided by Teletext Ltd., whose news, sport and TV listings pages rival that of the BBC's television offering, Ceefax on terrestrial and BBC Red Button on digital. Teletext Ltd. also provides digital teletext for the Channel 3 services, as well as the text output for both Channel 4 and S4C (which is covered under the same licence) and Five (under a separate licence).

Digital Channel 3

Since 1998, each of the Channel 3 franchises have received gifted capacity on digital terrestrial television (DTT). As per the original agreement, each regional ITV contractor broadcasts its Channel 3 service from 9:25am to 6:00am daily, with the breakfast operator broadcasting in the remaining hours. However, unlike analogue broadcasts, the assigned capacity across DTT is able to carry multiple television services which, like Channel 3, are broadcast by the regional franchisee between the hours of 9:25am and 6:00am, with the breakfast contractor operating between 6:00am and 9:25am.

At present, all licensees opt to broadcast ITV plc-owned channels, being ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and the CITV Channel, as opposed to broadcasting their own. Up until 2002, UTV in Northern Irelandmarker ran a service known as UTV2, while both Scottish and Grampian ran S2. The breakfast operator, currently GMTV, is obliged to broadcast between the hours of 6:00 and 9:25am daily. Alongside the Channel 3 GMTV service, GMTV also broadcasts GMTV2, which is broadcast on the same capacity as ITV4 (previously ITV2) and the CITV Channel. The company also holds a third GMTV3 licence however it currently sells this gifted capacity to ITV plc to broadcast ITV3 24 hours a day. ITV is available all across the UK and is also available in the Rep. of Ireland on Freeview and Digital satellite.

Channel 3 shares its space with Channel 4 on Multiplex 2, known as Digital 3&4.

Public service broadcasting

The right granted by Ofcom of Channel 3's nationally-available status on both analogue and digital television comes with responsibility, in the form of public service broadcasting. Alongside the BBC, Channel 4 and Five, the members of the ITV Network and GMTV all have a responsibility to broadcast various programming of public importance on their analogue stations. This includes quotas for news, current affairs, independent and European programming, children's and religious programming, and output containing subtitles, signing and audio description. In addition, Channel 3 stations are legally obliged to screen party election broadcasts on behalf of all the major political parties, and also other political events such as the Budget.

All the companies holding a franchise are members of ITV Network Limited (formerly the Independent Television Companies' Association Limited), a non-profit body. It is this body that commissions programmes for the network, and schedules the network programming. However, in practice ITV plc, which owns ITV Broadcasting Limited which hold eleven of the fifteen regional licences, dominates the system.

Much of the originated networked programme output (around 50% , but previously up to 65% according to some reports) is contributed by ITV Studios, the production arm of ITV plc (consisting of the consolidated regional companies' network production departments), although a growing number of programmes are commissioned by the Network from independents (a minimum of 25% of total output, as stipulated by the 1990 Broadcasting Act). In addition, the entire network is obliged to broadcast national news sourced by a common contractor (currently ITN). All stations have the right to opt out of national programming (except for the national news) but generally do not, since most are owned by the one company and the others have limited resources for non-networked productions.

Licence details

The table below lists current Channel 3 regional and national licences and the licence holder.
Licenses in England and Wales were held by individual regional ITV plc owned companies prior to November 2008.

Licence Service Area Licence Holder Licence held since Parent Company Service Name On Air Name
Regional Channel 3 Licences
Northern Scotlandmarker STV North Limited 1961 STV Group plc Grampian Television STV
Central Scotlandmarker STV Central Limited 1957 STV Group plc Scottish Television STV
Northern Irelandmarker UTV Limited 1959 UTV Media plc UTV UTV1
Channel Islands Channel Television Limited 1962 Yattendon Investment Trust ITV1 Channel Television ITV1 (Channel Television)2
English-Scottish border and Isle of Manmarker ITV Broadcasting Limited February 2009 ITV plc ITV1 (Border)
ITV1 (Border Scotland)
North East England ITV Broadcasting Limited February 2009 ITV plc ITV1 (Tyne Tees) ITV1
Yorkshiremarker, Lincolnshiremarker and North Norfolk 3 ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 (Yorkshire) ITV1
North West England 3 ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 (Granada) ITV1
Walesmarker and West of England ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 (HTV Wales)
ITV1 (HTV West)
ITV1 (Wales) 2
Midlandsmarker 4 ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 (Central) ITV1
East of England ITV Broadcasting Limited December 2006 5 ITV plc ITV1 (Anglia) ITV1
Londonmarker Weekday ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 (Carlton) ITV1
Londonmarker Weekend ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 (LWT) ITV1
South and South East England ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 (Meridian) ITV1
South West England ITV Broadcasting Limited February 2009 ITV plc ITV1 (Westcountry) ITV1
National Channel 3 Licences
National teletext service Teletext Ltd. 1993 DMGT ITV Teletext Teletext
National breakfast time GMTV Ltd 1993 ITV plc Good Morning Television GMTV5

  1. ITV1 on air branding is used overnight
  2. Usually Just ITV1.
  3. Up to 1968, the service for a single Northern area consisting of both the current North West region and most of the current Yorkshire region was provided by Granada Television for Monday to Friday and by ABC Television for weekends.
  4. Up to 1968, the service for the Midlands region was provided by Associated Television for Monday to Friday and by ABC Television for weekends.
  5. "Anglia Television Limited", which had provided the service since 1959, had its name changed to "ITV Broadcasting Limited" on December 29, 2006.
  6. CITV branding is also used for children's output at the weekend and on digital services.


Independent Television was created following the Television Act 1954. The Independent Television Authority was set up to control and review the network. In the three main areas – London, the Midlandsmarker and the North of England – ITV was launched in September 1955, February 1956 and May 1956 respectively. The shape of the ITV Network and the course it has taken down the years has largely been controlled by regular re-franchising rounds which occurred in 1964, 1968, 1974, 1982, and 1993. These rounds saw regions and franchise areas reshaped and franchise holders changed. Additionally, since the Broadcasting Act 1990 the consolidation of ITV companies has also had an important bearing on the direction of the network. The 1990s saw the number of broadcasters drop dramatically, for instance in 1992, Yorkshire Television acquired Tyne Tees Television to create Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television, only for this entity to merge with Granada Television in 1997. A similar process happened with the Southern Regions, leaving Carlton Television and Granada Television as the two major players, until the failure of ITV Digital saw these two merge.


With more channels to choose from, digital television is increasingly putting pressure on the ITV network's ratings and advertising revenues. This has led a number of requests by franchisees to reduce the network's public service commitments. For example, most recently, ITV has shown interest in reducing its children's output. Critics of the broadcaster have also pointed to the reduction in commitment to regional programming and presentation.

Perhaps the most controversial change was the scrapping of the flagship late evening news programme, News at Ten in 1999, replacing it with a later, irregular scheduled and shorter news bulletin. ITV argued that the move would enable it to make the evening schedule more diverse and flexible, allowing them to show feature length films without a news break. News at Ten was brought back in January 2008, with just 3.8 million viewers compared to 4.9 million viewers who watched the BBC News at Ten.

Such actions on the part of ITV together with a move to more populist programming has led to many commentators to accuse ITV of 'dumbing down'. In its defence, ITV does continue to show its major strengths in the fields of sports coverage and drama productions, and the production of 'high-brow' programming such as The South Bank Show has continued. However its long-standing commitment to strong current affairs programming has diminished with the ending of productions such as World in Action (Granada), This Week (Rediffusion/Thames), First Tuesday (Yorkshire Television) and Weekend World (LWT) and their replacement with populist shows such as Tonight.

The threat to "Channel 3" advertising revenues has also led franchisees to increasingly diversify their businesses. Most notably, ITV plc owns five additional digital-only television channels, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, CITV Channel and Men & Motors and also time-shift channels of ITV2,3 and 4. This diversification has also led to numerous notable failures such as ITV Digital in 2002, which was owned by ITV plc's predecessors Carlton and Granada.


For over 50 years of Independent Television, the homegrown programmes have become the best loved and remembered as well as being extremely successful. Before the 1990s, nearly all of the content for the channel was produced by the fifteen franchise licensees: the regional companies.

However, in the last decade, and following legislation in the Broadcasting Act 1990 imposing a 25% quota for commissioning of independent productions, the number of programmes from independent production companies not connected to the traditional ITV Network, has increased rapidly. Notable examples include Talkback Thames (one half of which - Thames Television - was itself a former ITV franchisee), producers of The Bill and co-producers of The X Factor, and 2waytraffic (previously Celador), producers of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

Increasingly ITV's primetime schedules are dominated by its soap operas, such as Coronation Streetmarker, Emmerdalemarker, and popular police drama The Bill (produced by TalkbackThames). At the start of the 21st century, Independent Television faced criticism for including a large amount of 'reality TV' programmes in the schedule, such as Celebrity Fit Club, Celebrity Wrestling and The Sex Education Show.

Since then, ITV has struggled to regain viewers' trust, as inexpensive programming has not paid dividends. ITV plc have been working to restore this, as the major provider of programming.


National and International

Since the network started Independent Television News Limited has held the contract to produce news for the ITV Network. News bulletins are broadcast at 5:30am, 1:30pm, 6:30pm, and 10:00pm.


The regional ITV companies provide local programmes tailored for the regional audiences. All the ITV companies provide a main local bulletin at 6pm (preceded in the UTV and STV regions by a more features-based programme at 5:30pm), as well as other local features and sport programming. For a list of all the ITV regional news services click [9223]


ITV covers many popular sports. The channel emphasises coverage of football (it holds the UK terrestrial rights to the UEFA Champions League). The channel shares coverage of international football events such as the World Cup with the BBC. It also covers motorsport, rugby, and other sports.

On 30 March 2007 The Football Association confirmed that it had agreed a new four-year £425m television deal for ITV and Setanta Sports to show FA Cup and England international matches (the Scottish regional broadcaster,STV, replaces these games with regular programming). The deal with the FA represents a 42% increase on the existing deal with the BBC and BSkyB.


The network broadcasts children's programming under the CITV (Children's ITV) strand. Children's programming is broadcast across the network on weekend mornings. Children's programmes were removed from the ITV line-up in 2007, a move which was challenged by Ofcom in April 2007. In 2006, ITV plc launched their own Children's channel under the CITV brand.

The future

ITV plc

On 12 September 2007, ITV plc announced a major five-year restructuring plan targeting entertainment as their top priority to bring to the ITV networks. A major overhaul of the regional structure of ITV was also proposed. The proposals would see a reduction of ITV plc's regional news programmes in England and Wales, with regions now broadcasting one service per region rather than multiple tailored local services (for example: Yorkshire Television would no longer broadcast separate Northern and Southern regions). The proposed changes would also fully merge Border Television with Tyne Tees Television and HTV West with Westcountry Television, effectively ending two regions' tenure as independent players within ITV. These changes started on the regional news service on 9 February 2009 when Meridian combined its South East, South, and Thames Valley news services into one programme.

There would be a certain amount of expansion elsewhere—ITV Network Limited currently commissions around 54% of its programmes from ITV plc's in-house production units. ITV plc hope for this to be increased to the maximum 75% allowed by the regulators over the coming years.

Programming disputes with STV

In July 2009, Scottish Television announced that they would be axing hit programmes like The Bill, Midsomer Murders and Lewismarker . The reason for the axing, STV claim, is that the shows were too expensive and they would prefer to show programmes made in Scotland.

This move angered ITV especially since they had just revamped the schedule at that time to make The Bill the heart of their programming schedule. ITV's response to The Bill being axed was to air it on ITV 3 as well as ITV 1 so the majority of viewers in Scotland could still see it.

On 23 September 2009, The Press Association reported that ITV are to sue STV over the dropped shows. ITV has claimed that by dropping several hit shows to concentrate on catering for regional audiences, STV are in breach of their network agreements. The Press Association report that ITV are to sue STV for £38 million .

Future franchise rounds

It is generally unknown if there will be any further franchise rounds held by Ofcom; the last was in 1991. Carlton Television (now part of ITV plc) had its licence renewed without a contest in 2004, and UTV's expires on 31 December 2014. This is the longest ITV has gone with the same contractors. There may be a possible round in 2012 or 2014 with scaled down regions known as micro-regions, very similar to what ITV's original regional variations were pre-1999.

See also



External links

The ITV companies

Unofficial sites about ITV

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