Redraw the map 

1 September 2001

When the ITV network was originally created back in the 1950s, a lot of factors dictated the shape of the regions.

Population concentrations, the physics of VHF transmission and expected revenues from advertising all played their part in deciding the shape of ITV that we know today.

However, times have changed. VHF in 405-lines is not the broadcast standard any more. TV is available to almost everyone in the country, give or take a few thousand.

Digital transmission on UHF is the newest standard, along with Ku and C band digital transmissions from satellites. Almost 50 years of commercial television history has given us a chance to look back and forward.

The original ITV map had a few quite large regions. The original North region was made up of what we today know as Granada and Yorkshire, and was split between weekday and weekend contractors, as London still is.

The Midlands was also split between weekday and weekend contractors. However, one large region, the South, was awarded only one 7 day contractor, and covered an area stretching from Portland Bill to the white cliffs of Dover.

In the late 1960s the map was changed, creating the Granada/Yorkshire geographical split that we are familiar with today. The Midlands had the weekday/weekend split removed, but the South was left completely unaltered.

In the early 1980s the map was tinkered with, forcing both the Midlands and the South into splitting their large regions into 2 sub-regions.

HTV had been doing something similar for years, with separate services for Wales and the West of England. In the 1990s most of the ITV companies created further sub-regions for news.

Now, as we enter the digital broadcasting age, perhaps the time is now right to redraw the ITV map, creating smaller regions and more of them, to allow a greater sense of regionalism in ITV.

The main changes would be splitting Wales from the West of England, and create 2 sub-regions for Wales, one for the South and one for the West and North, along the lines of the old Teledu Cymru and TWW, before St Hilary was expanded.

The South would get split into 3 regions – one for the Thames Valley, one for the South East and one for the rest of the South.

The Midlands would also get split 3 ways, along the lines of the current Central News operations, into West Midlands, East Midlands and South Midlands. The breakfast licence would be scrapped as well.

However, these changes alone would do very little, as long as the merger culture is allowed to continue in ITV.

That is why the next proposal must be included, if any redrawing of the ITV map is to have any effect.

Two corporate conglomerates, Carlton and Granada, dominate the current ITV franchise holders.

Eleven of the 15 current ITV regions are controlled by these 2 companies, which are currently looking to merge into a single ITV operation.

I propose that Carlton and Granada be given the go-ahead to merge, but with conditions attached. ITV1 and ITV2 will be forced to give up their privileged places on analogue and digital.

This will mean that the regional companies that Carlton and Granada own will no longer be regarded as the Channel 3 (Analogue) licence holders, and a bidding process will have to begin to find their replacements.

It will also mean that ITV1, ITV2 and ITV News Channel will lose their places on the Digital 3 and 4 Multiplex. Those places will be awarded to the new regional Channel 3 licence holders.

As a side effect of this, it would also free ITV from having any regional or public service commitment, so they could create what they have seemingly wanted to create for some time now, an entirely networked, populist schedule.

This may seem very harsh, but let us not forget that between Carlton and Granada, they have managed to run only 2 semi-successful multi-channel operations, failing on 10 more counts.

They also jointly ran and closed the ITV Sport Channel, and not forgetting of course, the classic ONdigital/ITV Digital debacle, which put paid to almost any hopes of creating a pay-TV operation on digital terrestrial. Companies have lost whole ITV franchises before now for lesser crimes than these.

It’s time that the Channel 3 map was redrawn to place greater emphasis on the regions, and in the process, set ITV free from the shackles of its public service commitments, forcing it completely into the market, making it fight for carriage and indeed, for its very survival.

It is often said, “quality will always shine through.” ITV should welcome the chance to prove that their programmes can shine on their own merits, without the guaranteed slots of the Channel 3 licences or the Digital 3 and 4 multiplex.

But somehow such a welcome for the logical conclusions of the ‘market-driven’ reforms that ITV want is unlikely to come from the ITV Network Centre, I suspect.

You Say

1 response to this article

n hewit 29 December 2015 at 2:59 pm

Couldn’t ITV3, provide the ideal platform for Regional programming, based on smaller Regions as proposed but with some Pooled output like FR3 ie Tyne Tees/Border South,(Caldbeck), West and South Yorks,(Emley Moor) Wolds and North East Midlands,(Belmont and Waltham), Ribble Irwell, (Winter Hill) North Wales/Marcher/ Mersey aw Golgedd Cymru/Marcher ac Mersi,(Wrekin, Llandonna, Moel Y Parc, Storeton and Moss Bank Relays with addition of one on Frodsham Hill to serve North West Cheshire), West Midlands,(Sutton Coldfield, Ridge Hill) South Wales/De Cymru,(Blaen Pwlf, Prescelley, Carmel, Wenvoe) West,(Mendip) Central South and East,(Oxford, Sandy Heath), Eastern Talconeston, Sudbury, London,(Crystal Palace, Blue Bell Hill) South East,(Dover, Midhurst), Central South, Hannington, Rowridge, Stockland Hill ) Peninsular, (Huntshaw Cross, Beacon Hill, Caradon Hill and Redruth?).These would better reflect Communities of Interest and Economic Units. The Cross Border North Wales, Marches and Merseyside Region is not as odd as it seems, Liverpool has invariably been incorporated into Regional Units that extend into North Wales, West Cheshire and Shropshire, e.g National Bus Company Groups, Electricity Supply area, Commerce tended not to recognise the border as did the Health Service which still provides specialist services on behalf of the Welsh NHS for North Wales. On a technical point reception of the Wales/West ITV franchise was better in many parts of South Merseyside than the official franchise for North West England, due to the closer proximity of the Moel-Y- Parc transmitter, Less than 12 miles as the crow flies from Liverpool City Centre, less from some of its southern suburbs. The Liverpool ILR station included parts of North East Wales in its designated transmission area. On a similar vain parts of South Wirral and Greater Wrexham received their main TV reception from the Midland Region Transmitter on the Wrekin, likewise parts of South Cheshire. The obvious studio base would be either Chester or Wrexham/Wrecsam, both relatively central for the Region and close to the border with a mixture of English and Welsh cultures in both, Shrewsbury the other main centre provides shopping and commercial services for a large area of Mid Wales and its Regional evening newspaper circulates deeply into Montgomeryshire, the Chester/Wrexham Leader does the same in North East Wales! The need for further splitting would not occur, because S4C is the platform for Welsh Language programmes. The station could carry news from the Welsh Assembley also the New Liverpool City Region when it is established, Liverpools businesses would probably provide an adequate revenue stream, they supported the former Telewests Liverpool One programmes on the cable system!

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