UTV’s rival reveals its plans for channel 

23 September 2020 tbs.pm/71077

Proposed NIIT logo

Logo used on NIIT’s application to the IBA


Belfast Telegraph masthead

From the Belfast Telegraph for 14 May 1980

● NORTHERN Ireland Independent Television today took the wraps off the service it would give the province.

The company is vying with Ulster Television for the IBA contract to run an independent television service in Ulster.

Both have submitted applications to the authority detailing their plans to run the commercial station.

The programme policy of the company seeking to overthrow Ulster Television will be to “inform, educate and entertain”, according to a precis of their application released today.

In the news and current affairs section the company believes their area to be “vital in the Northern Ireland context where fair reporting and wide coverage has been established.”

They say an electronic news gathering unit – cause of the ITN dispute – and a reporter will be based in Londonderry where a studio would be available for reports and interviews. This would cover events in the west of the region.

And in reporting violence, the company claim they will put the emphasis on its effects on persons and property and “under no circumstances” would gratuitous publicity be given to terrorists from either side.

The company also see scope for inviting neutral observers to assess developments here as well as utilising facilities in Brussels and Strasbourg to report on Northern Ireland’s EEC affairs.

They also hint that Gloria Hunniford’s type of daily magazine programme would be cut to half-an-hour. Air-time and resources allocated must not be disproportionate, says the report.

There will also be locally-produced sports, entertainment, religious and farming programmes.

It all adds up to about 8½ hours of locally-produced programmes.

And, Northern Ireland Independent Television also have their eye on the new fourth channel.

They will be proposing to the Fourth Channel Controller a one-hour weekly programme, provisionally entitled “Ireland Now”. The “collaboration” of RTE would be sought for this programe [sic] to reflect Ireland as a whole.


Map of Northern Ireland transmitters

1969 map of UHF and VHF coverage of Northern Ireland by Independent Television Authority transmitters


A new television centre would be built in Belfast to house the company’s three studios and eight cameras and from where a 3-camera outside broadcast unit would operate.

Capital for the scheme will total £2,500,000 [£12.8m in 2020, allowing for inflation] to be raised by shareholders’ funds in the form of founder and ordinary shares and subordinate unsecured loan stock.

In addition there will be £500,000 [£2.5m] available from Bank of Ireland, Belfast; £500,000 available a piece from Brown Shipley and Co. Ltd., Lothburty, and Investment Bank of Ireland; and a term loan of 75pc towards cost of site and building costs repayable over 10 years.

Technical equipment, vehicles, office equipment, etc., costing about £4,800,000, [£24.5m] would be financed by leasing.

If the contract were passed to NIIT they would expect to begin broadcasting on January 1, 1982.

That year they expect a total of £8,336,000 [£42.6m] in advertising revenue, rising to £9,378,000 [£48m] the following year and £10,784,000 [£55.1m] in 1984.

Along with other revenue the expected total of 1982 is £8,577,000 [£43.8m]. Expenditure for that year is listed as £8,138,000 [£41.6m].

The directors of the new company have already revealed who they are: Lord Dunleath, chairman; W. H. D. McCormick, joint deputy chairman; C. M. Monteith, joint deputy chairman; R. E. Bailie, J. C. Best; G. A. Cathcart; Dr. W. Cockcroft; P. M. Coulter; R. Coulter; S. P. Graham; J. J. Mellory; H. Nesbitt; Mrs. A. M. O’Hara; Miss Mary Peters; H. F. D. Stevenson; J. B. Garrett; and D. Bailey.

The application for the IBA contracts for the province concludes: “We have no illusions about our challenging objectives. Hard-headed realism has never been far from our round-tables, neither has enthusiasm.”



❛❛Russ J Graham writes: Enthusiasm is one thing. Business sense is clearly another.

The figures quoted here are hopelessly optimistic and, despite some extraordinary degrees of spurious specificity, seemingly pulled out of a hat at random.

For purposes of comparison, Ulster Television, who didn’t need to spend millions on a new studio site and whizzbang equipment, made a profit in the year ending 31 July 1982 of £333,473 [£1.3m now] on a turnover of £10,299,580 [£39.9m] – and this was a big rise compared to the recession-lashed result the year before.

Another worrying thing in the plans is the very 1980s decision to lease all the equipment. This looked good on balance sheets as they were composed at the time, but did mean that a company was pushing a wave of debt and fresh bills in front of itself all the time. For example, this is the route BSB chose for equipping Marcopolo House, compared to Sky who always bought outright: we know which strategy worked well and which sunk a company.

If you add the terrible finance plans to the really quite dull – but, to be fair, very regionally focussed – programme plans you get a dud. The newspapers all talked NIIT up, mind, saying that UTV had a fight on its hands and the result would be ‘very close’, if that means anything in a winner-takes-all competition. However, the day before the IBA made its announcement, Lord Dunleath was to be found expressing pessimism and saying that NIIT had failed.

He was right.

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