The end of today marks the 25th anniversary of the ITV 1993 franchise round as required by the Broadcasting Act 1990. As a result of the decisions of the Indepdent Television Commission (the regulator of ITV at the time), at the beginning of New Year’s Day 1993 three ITV contractors, the breakfast television franchise and the teletext franchise were replaced with new companies.
The old and new companies were:
- Thames Television (London weekdays) were replaced by Carlton Television
- TVS (South and South East) were replaced by Meridian Broadcasting
- TSW (South West) were replaced by Westcountry Television
- TV-am (national breakfast franchise) were replaced by GMTV
- ORACLE (the ITV and Channel 4 teletext service) was replaced by a new service called “Teletext”
Thames in particular had had a long broadcasting history, being formed from the amalgamation of Rediffusion and ABC at the ITA’s insistence in 1968 but both Rediffusion and ABC were two of the original contractors in 1955/1956 so the loss of this franchise was a bit of a shock, and there were suggestions at the time the decision had been politically motivated. TVS had been awarded the franchise in 1982 to take over from Southern Television, and TSW had been around about as long, taking over from Westward in the same franchise round. TV-am was a new franchise which started in February 1983.
Whilst this doesn’t seem a big deal nowadays, this was in an age when satellite television was still in its infancy and the whole ITV system had been designed in the 1950s to provide a bit of competition in the system when technically there was no other way of providing it. Now with myriad ways to view television available, including cable and satellite television and IPTV, there are thousands and thousands of channels available competing for your custom, but back then it was only technically possible to provide 2 channels and so this was the only way they could think of to provide the competition they wanted.
The new franchise structure was to bring a lot of changes. In particular, Carlton and Meridian were “publisher-broadcasters” in that they generally didn’t produce their own programmes but paid other companies to do it for them, whereas in the past ITV companies had largely produced their programmes in-house.
Some people contend that this franchise round was the beginning of the end for ITV, and in a way the changes made did alter the way independent television in the UK was done forever. There has not been a franchise round since which has made such sweeping changes to the companies like this one did, and consolidation caused all but two of the ITV regions to be owned by ITV plc (which itself was formed by the merger of Carlton Television and Granada Television). With the purchase of Ulster Television (UTV) and Channel Television recently, the only ITV franchises not to be owned by ITV plc are the Scottish Television (central Scotland) and Grampian Television (north of Scotland) franchises, both of which are now owned by STV. Whilst some adjustments were made to the licenses at digital switchover, the ITV map still remains largely as it did when these changes were made in 1993.
And in case you didn’t get the title of this post, it was the title of TVS’s final programme which finished at the new year boundary on 31 December 1992, which someone has managed to preserve for posterity on YouTube. (Interestingly, I didn’t see this at the time because I had moved away from the TVS region by then).
So at midnight on 1 January 1993, it was Happy New Year, unless you were Thames, TVS, TSW, TV-am or ORACLE.