is a major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority (ITA) to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK. Since the passing of 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. In part, the number 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 the number within their name.

ITV is a network of television channels operating regional television services as well as sharing programmes between each other to be displayed on the entire network. In recent years, several of these companies have merged so that currently, the fifteen franchises are currently in the hands of three companies.

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 holds the Channel 3 broadcasting licences in England, Wales, southern Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Similarly ITV1 is the brand used by ITV plc for the Channel 3 service in these areas. Of the companies external to ITV plc, STV and UTV use their own brands in their own respective areas (northern and central Scotland and Northern Ireland).


The origins of ITV lie in the passing of the Television Act 1954, designed to break the monopoly on television held by the BBC Television Service. To prevent any commercial network reverting to the 'vulgar' nature of US commercial networks at the time, the act created the Independent Television Authority (ITA) to heavily regulate the industry and to award franchises. The first six franchises were awarded in 1954 for London, the Midlands and the North of England, with separate franchises for Weekdays and Weekends. The first ITV network to launch was London's Associated-Rediffusion on 22 September 1955, with the midlands and North services launching in February 1956 and May 1956 respectively. Following these launches, the ITA awarded more franchises until the whole country was covered by a regional station, totaling fourteen, with all stations launched by 1962.

The network has been modified several times through franchise reviews that have taken place in 1963, 1967, 1974, 1980 and 1991, during which broadcast regions have changed and service operators have been replaced. Only one service operator has ever been declared bankrupt, WWN in 1964, with all other operators leaving the network as a result of a franchise review. Weekend services were removed, with the exception of London, in 1964 and over the years more services were added including a teletext service and a national breakfast franchise, operating between 6.00 and 9.25am, in 1983. The Broadcasting Act 1990 changed the nature of ITV; the then regulator the IBA was replaced with a light-touch regulator the ITC, companies now able to purchase other ITV regional companies and franchises were now being awarded based upon a highest-bidder auction, with few safeguards in place. This heavily criticized part of the review saw four operators replaced and the operators facing different annual payments to the treasury: Central television for example only paid £2000, despite holding a lucrative and large region because they were unopposed, while Yorkshire television paid £37.7 million for a region of the same size and status due to heavy competition.

Following the 1993 changes, ITV as a network began to consolidate with several companies doing so to save money by ceasing the duplication of services present when they were all separate companies. By 2004, ITV was owned by five companies of which two, Carlton and Granada had become major players by owning between the two all the franchises in England, Wales, the Scottish borders and the Isle of Man. That same year, the two merged to form ITV plc with the only subsequent acquisition being the takeover of Channel Television, the Channel Islands franchise, in 2011.


ITV is not owned by one company, but rather by a series of regional companies that provide a regional service while also broadcasting programmes across the network. Since 2011, the entire ITV network is in the hands of three companies.

The network is regulated by the media regulator Ofcom who is responsible for awarding the broadcast licenses. The last time the franchises were reviewed was in 1991 with all operators' licenses being renewed without contest or review since, making it the longest ITV has gone without a review. All the companies owning a franchise license are part of the non-profit body ITV Network Limited, which commissions and schedules network programming with compliance previously handled by ITV plc and Channel Television. However, since the amalgamation of companies since the creation of ITV Network Ltd., and since that Channel Television is now owned by ITV plc, it has been replaced by an affiliation system. This system, approved by Ofcom, results in ITV plc commissioning and funding the network schedule, with STV and UTV paying a fee to broadcast it. All licenses have the right to opt out of network programming (except for the national news bulletins), however many do not due to pressures from the owner company or because of limited resources.

As a public service broadcaster, the ITV network is obliged to broadcast programming of public importance, including news, current affairs, children's and religious programming as well as party election broadcasts on behalf of the major political parties and political events, such as the Budget. The network also needs to produce accessible output containing subtitles, signing and audio description. In exchange for this programming, the ITV network is available on all platforms free to air and can be found at the top of the EPG of all providers.

Since the launch of the platform in 1998, all of the ITV franchises have received gifted capacity on the digital terrestrial television platform. At present, the companies are able to broadcast additional channels and all choose to broadcast the ITV plc owned ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV in their region. UTV, Scottish and Grampian have previously broadcast their own services, UTV2 in the former and S2 in the latter two, until 2002 when they adopted the ITV plc channels. The broadcasters all make use of the Digital 3&4 multiplex, shared with Channel 4.

ITV plcEdit

ITV plc owns twelve of the fifteen franchises and broadcasts to England, Wales, southern Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands through its subsidiary companies ITV Broadcasting Limited and Channel Television Limited. The company also owns the breakfast contractor that broadcasts across the network between 6.00 and 9.25am each morning using the Daybreak and Lorraine names. The company broadcasts a centralized service under the ITV1 brand, except in the Channel islands where it uses the ITV1 Channel Television brand.

The group also owns ITV Studios, the production arm of the company and formed from an amalgamation of all the production departments of the regional licenses they own. The company produces a large proportion of ITV's networked programming (around 47%, but previously as high as 66% according to some reports), with the rest coming primarily from independent suppliers (Under the 1990 Broadcasting Act, at least 25% of ITV's total output must be from independent companies). ITV plc hope to increase the amount of in-house programming to as close to the 75% limit as possible.

The group has recently cut the number of regional news programmes offered from 17 in 2007 to 9 by 2009, resulting several regions being merged to form on programme, including the Border and Tyne Tees regions, the Westcountry and West regions and the removal of sub regional programming, with some regions only represented by pre-recorded segments.

STV GroupEdit

STV Group plc owns two of the fifteen franchises covering central and northern Scotland, through subsidiary companies STV Central and STV North, broadcasting a central service under the STV brand.

The company has had several disputes with ITV plc in recent years over network programming. STV aims to broadcast more Scottish programmes at peak times and so removed several key ITV plc programmes from their schedule in July 2009 including The Bill, Midsomer Murders and Lewis. Despite STV's explanation of expense, ITV plc were angered by the decision, as a recent schedule change had made The Bill central to their programming, and broadcast the programmes on ITV3 as well to ensure Scottish viewers could see the programmes. On 23 September ITV was reported to be in the process of sueing STV for £20 million, as ITV plc felt dropping the shows constituted a breach of network agreements; STV subsequently counter-sued ITV plc for £35 million.

The dispute was ended in 2011 with STV agreeing to pay ITV plc £18 million. The signing of the new affiliation deal has resulted in STV paying a flat fee for all networked programming, and so to drop any programmes is unlikely due to the large costs involved.

UTV MediaEdit

UTV Media plc owns the Northern Ireland franchise and broadcasts a regional service, through subsidiarity UTV Limited, under the UTV brand (an abbreviation of Ulster Television). The service broadcasts several regional programmes for the benefit of their audience. The service is also available in the Republic of Ireland and operates several other media ventures.

Current licenseesEdit

There are at present fourteen regional licenses and one national license for the breakfast service. Other licenses exist to provide specific programming services, such as Teletext and national news, but are not listed here. All licenses listed here were renewed until the end of 2014. Licences in England and Wales were held by the 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 Scotland STV North Limited 1961 STV Group plc STV North STV
Central Scotland STV Central Limited 1957 STV Group plc STV Central STV
Northern Ireland UTV Limited 1959 UTV Media plc UTV UTV
Channel Islands Channel Television Limited 1962 ITV plc ITV1 Channel Television ITV1 Channel Television
English-Scottish border ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Border ITV1
North East England ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Tyne Tees ITV1
Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and North Norfolk ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Yorkshire ITV1
North West England and Isle of Man ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Granada ITV1
Wales and West of England ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Wales
ITV1 West
ITV1 Wales
Midlands ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Central ITV1
East of England ITV Broadcasting Limited December 2006 ITV plc ITV1 Anglia ITV1
London Weekday ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 London (Carlton) ITV1
London Weekend ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 London (LWT) ITV1
South and South East England ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Meridian ITV1
South West England ITV Broadcasting Limited November 2008 ITV plc ITV1 Westcountry ITV1
National Channel 3 Licences
National breakfast time ITV Breakfast Broadcasting Limited 1993 ITV plc ITV Breakfast ITV1


For over 50 years of ITV, 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?.

From the late 1990s, ITV's long-standing commitment to strong current affairs and documentary programming began to diminish with the ending of productions such as World in Action (Granada), This Week (Rediffusion/Thames), First Tuesday (Yorkshire Television), Network First, Survival (Anglia Television), and Weekend World (LWT) and their replacement with populist shows such as Tonight. News at Ten was also axed in 1999, although it was reinstated in 2008. In December 2009, the final edition of ITV's long-running arts programme, The South Bank Show was broadcast.

Increasingly ITV's primetime schedules are dominated by its soap operas, such as the flagship Coronation Street and Emmerdale. 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 Love Island. In its defence, ITV does continue to show its major strengths in the fields of sports coverage and drama productions, and it continues to schedule national news in primetime.

National and international newsEdit

Since the network started, Independent Television News Limited (ITN) has held the contract to produce news for the ITV Network, with 30 minute national news bulletins broadcast at 5:30am, 1:30pm, 6:30pm, and 10:00pm. These bulletins were broadcast under the ITN brand between 1955 and 1999, when a new network identity reinforced the ITV brand, resulting in the new bulletins being broadcast under the ITV News brand.

ITN has long been respected in the news industry as a source of reliable information and news, and as a result the service has won many awards for their programmes, the latest being in May 2011 when News at Ten was named best news programme by the Royal Television Society and BAFTA.

Regional newsEdit

The regional ITV companies are required to provide local news as part of their franchise agreement, with the main local bulletin at 6pm and regional bulletins located after each national news programme. In addition to this, traditionally ITV companies would provide other regional programming based on current affairs, entertainment or drama. However, apart from a monthly political programme, most non-news regional programming in the English regions was dropped by ITV plc in 2009, although it continues in Wales and the Channel Islands, as well as on STV and UTV.


The ITV National Weather forecast was first broadcast in 1989, using data supplied by the Met Office, and was presented by a number of weather forecasters. The forecasts are sponsored in which the sponsors message, as of 2011 The Co-operative Food, would appear prior to the forecast. The forecasts are made immediately after the main national news bulletins.

Prior to the creation of the national forecast, regional forecast provided by each regional companies were shown in each region only. The regional forecasts today are incorporated into the main regional news bulletins, and in the ITV plc regions includes a Pollen Count.


ITV covers many popular sports. The channel emphasises coverage of football, with the channel holding the UK terrestrial rights to the UEFA Champions League and with the channel sharing coverage of international football events such as the World Cup with the BBC. 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 home international matches (the Scottish regional broadcaster STV replaces these games with regular programming). The deal with the FA represented a 42% increase on the existing deal with BBC Sport and BSkyB.

In May 2009, ITV acquired the rights to broadcast live cricket from the Indian Premier League. The network also covers motorsport, rugby, and other sports.

Children's programmingEdit

The network broadcasts children's programming under the CITV (Children's ITV) strand. Children's programming was originally provided during weekday afternoons and weekend mornings, however following the launch of the CITV Channel in 2006, all children's programming, with the exception of the weekend ITV Breakfast slot, were relocated from the ITV line-up to the CITV channel in 2007, a move which was challenged by Ofcom in April 2007.

Teletext providerEdit

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 was provided by ORACLE from 1974 until 1993 and from 1993 to 2010 by Teletext Ltd., whose news, sport and TV listings pages rivalled the BBC's offering, Ceefax on terrestrial and BBC Red Button on digital. Teletext Ltd. also provided digital teletext for the Channel 3 services, as well as the text output for both Channel 4 and S4C under the same licence and Channel 5. However, the licence was revoked by Ofcom on 29 January 2010 for failing to provide news and local non-news information on ITV and there is currently no teletext licence holder for ITV.

Schools programmingEdit

Schools programming on the network began in 1957 in some regions and expanded as more regions began broadcasting. It is a contractual obligation for the ITV company to broadcast schools programming, and this was initially broadcast as part of the normal scheduling. The programmes were moved into a segment for broadcast during the day in the 1960s, under the banner Independent Television for Schools and Colleges and from 1987 were broadcast on Channel 4 in the ITV Schools on Channel 4 segment. In 1993, this segment became Channel 4 Schools and later in 2000 4Learning. These strands of programming consisted of schools programming from all the ITV companies or from independent sources. The schools strand itself is now defunct, with no particular branding segment used.

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