TV channel 4 storm 

28 October 2020


Daily Mirror masthead

From the Daily Mirror for 27 July 1978

THE ITV companies were bitter yesterday over the Government’s decision not to give them the fourth television channel.

It is to go to a new Open Broadcasting Authority, which will be run independently of the BBC and ITV.

At first the programmes, which will aim to inform, educate and entertain minority audiences, will be financed by the Government.

But as the network develops, it will look to advertising and sponsorship for its cash.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority, which was hoping to run an ITV-2 channel, criticised the setting up of the new authority.

It said: “We believe that this reflects a failure to understand the practicalities of running a TV network.

Soap operas

“A fourth channel, integrated with ITV under the IBA’s control, would give the public a more effective service more quickly and more economically.”

The go-ahead for the fourth TV channel, along with a big expansion in local radio, was announced in a government White Paper.

It opened up the possibility of American-style “soap operas” – programmes sponsored by firms.

ITV lose to new rivals

The irony is that sponsorship was specifically forbidden when ITV was set up – and still is.

Some advertising agents doubted last night if sponsorship would succeed.

The White Paper also suggests that the fourth channel might be financed by the Continental system of having up to 15 minutes of block advertising without any programming between.

One advertising man said last night: “That would be death. It would send viewers away from their sets in millions.”

Other main proposals in the White Paper are the setting up of a Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the holding of public hearings at which viewers can say what they think of BBC and ITV programmes.



❛❛Russ J Graham writes: By 1978, the Labour government was tired. They had been in a minority since March 1977, relying on Liberal and Scottish Nationalist support to continue, getting sick people out of hospital beds to vote on endless confidence motions. They were on their way to the huge split left and right that would almost sink the party in the early 1980s. The economy was stuck in a mire and the trades unions, scared by unemployment marching up to an unbelievable 1 million, were using their power to try to change government policy in a growing series of strikes.

All of this was reflected in the bills they brought before parliament. They were largely all compromises between the left and right of the party, and between government and Liberal/SNP requirements to get their votes, and between those in the cabinet who wanted to spend their way out of trouble and those that wanted to cut right back.

The tiredness shone through as well. White Papers appeared, like this one, that were confused, muddled, badly drafted and lacking in coherent ideas.

The Broadcasting Bill showed this, as the Daily Mirror points out: the new OBA is to be financed by the government, except when it’ll be financed by sponsorship, except when it’ll be financed by adverts, except when those adverts are played out in a big block nobody will watch.

The IBA will build the transmitters, except where the OBA build them, and possibly also the BBC, and the OBA will run the channel except they might start a company to run the channel for them. Public hearings will be held on the quality of television programmes, but who will fund these is anybody’s guess, let alone the idea of giving a voice to the type of people who would go to a public meeting to complain about a television programme.

The argument over what to do with the unused, but fully planned for, fourth UHF channel had been running since at least 1964. Ideas had included a BBC-3, an ITV-2 with all new contractors, an ITV-2 with the same contractors as ITV-1, and ITV-2 with the same contractors but in different regions, an educational channel, an Open University channel, local channels, a national network not based in London, a national network based in London and not run by the BBC or the IBA, and about every other variation on these you can think of.

The Broadcasting Bill tried to please everybody and pleased nobody. You can tell the government was tired.

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Wednesday 10 April 2024