Myths about ITV 

7 December 2005

Emma Peel. From that Avengers episode. Oh yes. That one.

The Avengers was made by the BBC

Myth Source: Viacom press release

‘The Avengers’ was made by ABC Weekend Television. Not the BBC, and certainly not ATV, no matter what Lew may have suggested.

ITV pioneered ‘Tonight’ and ‘Panorama’, the popular current affairs programmes

Myth Source: The Guardian

The BBC created ‘Tonight’ to fill the ‘Toddlers Truce’. The BBC also created ‘Panorama’, presented by Richard Dimbleby. ITV responded to Panorama with Associated-Rediffusion’s ‘This Week’.

Although BBC-TV and ITN broke into regular programmes on 22 November 1963 to announce that President Kennedy had been shot, the two networks stopped their own coverage shortly thereafter to rebroadcast via satellite non-stop coverage of the assassination

Myth Source: Urban myth

There was no way either network could have done that. At the time, there was no television broadcast satellite in geostationary orbit over the North Atlantic.

Early satellites could broadcast between the US and the UK for only about fifteen minutes at a time once every hour and a half.

Channel 3 North East ran from 1997 to 1998.

Myth Source: Transdiffusion

An TBS production for Orwell. 1996-1998 would be the correct dates. With thanks to Kevin Tennent.

ITV began on 21 September 1955.

Myth Source: Urban myth

How curiously specifically wrong. ITV began on Thursday 22 September 1955.

ATV’s first broadcast was on 17 February 1956.

Myth Source: Internet myth

As one of the two original ITV broadcasters, ATV jointly presented the opening night of ITV on Thursday 22 September 1955, and officially opened on Saturday 24 September 1955. The company was first known as ABC (Associated Broadcasting Company) but a lawsuit from ABC Cinemas (who later formed ABC Weekend Television) caused the change of name in October 1955.

ATV’s early local news programme was called “Midlands Montage”.

Myth Source: Internet myth

“Midlands Montage” was the name of ATV’s final opening tune. “Midland Montage” (singular) was the name of the local news programme.

ABC Weekend served the North and London.

Myth Source: Internet myth

That would have been logistically interesting, to say the least. Needless to say, ABC served the Midlands and the North (but had studios in Teddington, near London).

The first Thames ident was the skyline ident.

Myth Source: Internet myth

The first ident seen on Thames was the plain ‘Television House’ version. The second ident, used concurrently until the arrival of colour, was the skyline version.

The monochrome version of ATV’s Zoom 2 ident was the inspiration for Central’s first idents.

Myth Source: Internet myth


Minor companies such as Westward could have had a network presence if they had tried harder.

Myth Source: Internet myth

The ITV network arrangements were designed by the ITA to ensure that only the output of the largest companies (ABC, A-R, ATV, Granada at first, ATV, Granada, LWT, Thames, YTV later) were commonly seen.

Westward productions were commonly networked at first.

Myth Source: Internet myth

The ITV network arrangements were designed by the ITA to ensure that only the output of the largest companies (ABC, A-R, ATV, Granada at first, ATV, Granada, LWT, Thames, YTV later) were commonly seen.

The ABC triangle was the first ABC ident dating back to 1956.

Myth Source: Internet myth

The ABC shield was the first logo of this company, followed by two variants (in typeface) of the ABC triangle.

The ITA was formed in 1955 ready for ITV to begin in September 1956.

Myth Source: Internet myth

The ITA was formed in 1954 ready for ITV to begin in September 1955.

In 1993, Oracle changed its name to Teletext.

Myth Source: The Guardian

The two companies are entirely unrelated. Oracle lost its franchise to Teletext UK Limited.

Rediffusion later became Carlton TV.

Myth Source: The Sunday Express

The two companies are entirely unrelated. We assume the ‘star’ symbols confused them.

ITN dropped “Non Stop”, its theme music used from 1955 in 1982 because it was considered “too jocular” during the Falklands Conflict.

Myth Source: Urban myth

ITN dropped “Non Stop” during the latter stages of the Falklands war, but the replacement of the tune by the ITN News at 545 theme had been planned for some time and was unrelated to the conflict. “Non Stop” was not considered “too jocular” until very recently.

Yorkshire Television is the franchise holder for North East England.

Myth Source: Internet myth

Yorkshire Television, as its name implies, is the franchise holder for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The franchise holder for North East England is Tyne Tees Television. Both companies are now owned by ITV plc.

TVS was the contractor for south west England.

Myth Source: Transdiffusion

Hands up to this one – spotted on TBS. TVS was the contractor for south and south east England. Obviously.

There was a franchise round for ITV in 1969.

Myth Source: The Guardian

There was a franchise round for ITV in 1963/4 (no changes) and in 1967 with results visible in Wales and the west in March and May of 1968, in the rest of the country at the end of July and beginning of August 1968, and in the production of television listings magazines from the September of 1968.

ABC Weekend Television served the North on weekends and the Midlands on weekdays.

Myth Source: Internet myth

Nonsense. The company served North and Midlands weekends only. This is why it was known as ABC Weekend Television.

In 1969 ATV changed its animation and revamped its jingle for the final time, this arrangement was to stay with ATV until 1981.

Myth Source: Internet myth

There was more than one colour version of the ATV Zoom ident music during the course of the 70s, as well as a black and white version of the ident and music.

Rediffusion owned 50% of Thames.

Myth Source: Urban myth

Rediffusion owned 49% of Thames. ABC held the majority stake of 51%. Profits were split 51-49 between the two.

Carlton own Thames.

Myth Source: The Guardian; everyone else

This is being retailed by newspaper journalists at the moment. Granada now own LWT, but Thames lost its franchise to Carlton. Just because Thames productions can still be seen on ITV doesn’t mean Carlton owns Thames.

ABC Weekend TV always broadcast one joint service in the Midlands and the North.

Myth Source: Internet myth

ABC broadcast two distinct services with local continuity in differing styles from Birmingham and Didsbury. Occasional joint continuity came from Teddington, but this was the exception rather than the rule.

The VHF 405-line transmitters were switched off before Central, TVS and TSW began.

Myth Source: Urban myth

VHF finally came to an end in 1985, so the new companies in 1982 (and TV-am in 1983) all broadcast on VHF as well as UHF Colour at first; Channel Four, like BBC2, was UHF 625-line only.

Thames was formed by a merger between Rediffusion London and ABC Weekend Television.

Myth Source: Urban myth

Thames Television was jointly-owned by BET, Rediffusion’s parent, and Associated British Picture Corporation (later part of Thorn EMI), ABC Weekend’s parent. Both ABC and Rediffusion continued to exist as separate entities after Thames was formed. ABPC held a 51% controlling stake in Thames.

Thames wasn’t ready to begin broadcasting at first, so Rediffusion had an extra day on air.

Myth Source: Urban myth

The new contracts in 1968 began on a Tuesday; Granada sold the Monday to Yorkshire, but Rediffusion did not sell to Thames. Therefore, YTV began early, on Monday, and Thames began on time, on Tuesday.

Tyne Tees has one ident between 1959 and 1969.

Myth Source: Urban Myth

Tyne Tees had one symbol between 1959 and 1969 – the ‘TTT’. However, their main ident changed several times, eventually ending up as the TTT symbol in a television screen shape.

Charles Hill was the first head of the ITA.

Myth Source: Urban myth

Lord Hill of Luton was the Postmaster-General in the Conservative government at the time the ITA was created. Sir Kenneth Clarke was the first head of the ITA.

TV-am was a programme on ITV.

Myth Source: The Daily Mail; everyone else

TV-am was a station on ITV – a separate company with a separate franchise. The same applies to GMTV. TV-am programmes included “Good Morning Britain”, “Daybreak”, “First Reports” and “The Wide Awake Club”.

Since Carlton hands over to LWT on a Friday evening, Rediffusion did the same with ATV.

Myth Source: Urban myth

The 7pm (later 5.15pm) change-over was instituted in August 1968 for Thames and LWT. It had never existed before then, as the London weekend contractor had another contract elsewhere on weekdays and wasn’t so desperate for the income.

Only London has ever had a weekend/weekday split.

Myth Source: Urban myth

In addition to the Rediffusion/ATV split in London, there was a split between ATV on weekdays and ABC on weekends in the midlands and between Granada on weekdays and ABC on weekends in the pan-North region (which included the current Granada and Yorkshire franchise regions). This ended in July 1968, although the split continued between Thames and LWT in London.

The smaller regions once had a weekend split.

Myth Source: TV Zone magazine

Only London, the Midlands and pan-North (now separated into Granada and YTV regions) were ever split weekdays and weekends. The regional companies were always 7-day providers in their own area.

Rediffusion lost its contract to LWT in 1964.

Myth Source: Martin Lambie Nairn; everyone else

The most perpetuated myth, wrong in both halves, thanks to being published in several autobiographies of prominent TV people of the time. Associated-Rediffusion became Rediffusion, London in 1964; Rediffusion became 49% of Thames in 1968; ATV London lost its franchise to LWT in 1968; ATV Midlands became a 7-day operation at the same time.

ABC briefly broadcast on weekends to the London region before beginning its weekend service to the North and Midlands in 1956

Myth Source: Urban myth, spotted by Joseph Gallant

While there was an ITV contractor called “ABC” that broadcast on weekends in London when ITV began in 1955, it was the Associated Broadcasting Company, dominated by Lew Grade.

Since Associated British Pictures Corporation held the weekend franchises in the North and Midlands, due to start-up in 1956, a British court had to determine who had the right to use the name “ABC”.

The court ruled that Associated British Pictures Corporation could use the name ABC and that Associated Broadcasting Company, the “ABC’ that had been broadcasting to London on weekends, had to change its name.

The London “ABC” changed its name to Associated TeleVision, shortened to ATV

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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2 responses to this article

John 2 October 2016 at 7:50 pm

Hate to be pedantic but neither Rediffusion nor ABC owned anything of Thames Television. Due to a bitter rivalry created by the enforced ‘merger’ neither company could agree to an adequate ownership structure so Thames Television Ltd became a 100% subsidiary of Thames Television (Holdings) Ltd. A holding company is purely an investment vehicle, whose income is solely derived from the profits of its’ subsidiary.

In terms of voting shares it was 51% of this that was owned by Associated British Cinemas (Television) Ltd, the TV arm of Associated British Picture Corporation, and 49% by Rediffusion Television Ltd. In terms of ‘B’ shares (those that split the profits) it was a 50-50 holding. Within a few years the holdings reverted to the respective parent companies, ABPC (which became EMI, then Thorn EMI through acquisition and merger) and British Electric Traction.

Kelvin Voskuijl 4 April 2021 at 11:47 pm

was the weekday/weekend even considered for the other regions?

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