INDEPENDENT TELEVISION: Present and Future Policy on Development 

14 February 2022


Kinematograph Weekly masthead

From the Kinematograph Weekly for 29 September 1955

SEPTEMBER 22 saw the culmination of a year’s intense preparatory activity by the Independent Television Authority. When it was first set up it had three main jobs to tackle.

It had to plan and begin to build a system of television transmitters which, if enough frequencies were made available, would eventually give nation-wide coverage.

It had to decide on what basis it was going to appoint the companies who would supply the programmes for transmission over its stations.

It had also, of course, to settle the rules, in so far as they were not explicitly set out in the Television Act, which would govern the operation of the system. The main rules are now pretty well known and I do not propose to recite them in this article.

Under the Television Act the ITA has to provide television services for as much of the country as it can. During the first phase of our development, which will be completed by the end of 1956, we shall erect stations covering the four most densely populated regions — London, the Midlands, and the Lancashire and Yorkshire areas. We originally hoped to cover Lancashire and Yorkshire from one station centrally situated on the Pennines, but this proved impracticable for technical reasons and we now plan to erect two stations, one on each side of the Pennines.

The first station to have gone into service — that at Croydon — covers a population of 11½ million or more and has a range of at least 50 miles [80km] to the north, west and east, but rather less to the south because of the screening effect of the North Downs. At present the station is operating with an effective radiated power of 60 kW, but this may be doubled around the end of the year; and this increase in power should mean an extension of the range and an even better picture for those people living within the present area of coverage.


Lichfield service area map

Estimated area of coverage of the Lichfield ITA station, expected to go on air early in 1956


The next station to go into operation will be near Lichfield and will cover the midlands from Shrewsbury in the west to Grantham and Oakham in the east, and from Bakewell and Chesterfield in the north to Gloucester and Cheltenham in the south.

6,000,000 Coverage




ASSOCIATED BRITISH CINEMAS (Television) LTD., Pathé House, 133-135 Oxford Street, London, W.1. Ger. 4314. Transmission: Birmingham and Manchester Saturday and Sunday.

ASSOCIATED BROADCASTING CO., LTD., Television House, Kingsway, London W.C.2. CHAncery 4488. Transmission: London, Saturday and Sunday; Birmingham, Monday to Friday.

ASSOCIATED REDIFFUSION, LTD., Television House, Kingsway, London W.C.2. HOLborn 7888. Transmission: London, Monday to Friday.

GRANADA TV NETWORK, LTD., 36, Golden Square, London, W.1. GERrard 3554. Transmission: Manchester, Monday to Friday.

We confidently expect it to go on the air in January or February next year. Its effective radiated power when transmissions begin will be over 100 kW., but this may be increased later to 200 kW. or more and so give an even greater coverage. The population covered by the station should exceed 6,000,000. Work is progressing well and the onset of winter weather, the bogy of all construction work in the exposed parts of the country where television stations sometimes have to be built, is not expected to delay its opening.

The other station on which work has begun is that at Rivington Moor near Bolton in Lancashire which we are aiming to have on the air towards the end of next spring. Rivington Moor will cover an area from Barrow-in-Furness in the north to Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe and Wrexham in the south, and stretching as far as Colwyn Bay and Llandudno in the west. The number of people living within the coverage area is estimated to exceed 7,000,000. The station will begin to operate with an effective radiated power of 100 kW. which may be increased later to 200 kW.

The site for the station in the Yorkshire area has not yet been chosen, although the present indications are that a site in the Wakefield-Barnsley area would be the most suitable.

Although it is our aim that this station should be broadcasting well before the end of next year, the date of its opening and the authority’s future engineering development generally depend upon how soon further frequencies can be allocated to us by the Postmaster-General.

A station in Yorkshire could not be opened if it had to operate on either of the two frequencies we are so far permitted to use, as its transmissions would cause interference either with those from Rivington Moor or with those from Lichfield.

All transmitting stations so far envisaged by the authority will operate in Band III. This band contains eight channels which can be used for television broadcasting, but so far only two of them have been made available to us. The remaining six are at present being used for purposes other than television although two of them are going to be allocated to us eventually.

Future Plans

Bernard Sendall

BERNARD SENDALL, deputy-director, ITA

The ultimate disposal of the other four is still uncertain and this uncertainty is necessarily reflected in any forecast of our future plans for development. What we should like to do would be to have some 20 stations or more operating by 1964 when the authority’s life under the present Television Act comes to an end.

In 1957 and 1958 we think it may be possible, frequencies permitting, to open three stations each year and after that the rate may drop to two a year. If we carry out this rate of development the nine or ten main areas of densest population would be receiving our service by 1959 and well over four-fifths of the population would be covered. By then, too, there could possibly be a second ITA programme in one or more areas.

As is now well known, there are four programme contractors at present: Associated-Rediffusion, Associated Broadcasting Company, Granada TV Network and Associated British Cinemas (Television).

Before dealing with the background to their selection, it would be as well if I explained very briefly the authority’s responsibility as regards programmes. The most important point to make is, perhaps, that the ITA will not, save in exceptional circumstances, arrange and produce programmes itself. That is entirely the job of the programme companies, who will finance their operations wholly out of advertising revenue.

The second is that while we have definite responsibilities under the Television Act for programme standards and balance, we do not see ourselves as censors. Nor are we simply referees to see that the Act is observed. The authority’s task is first to introduce and then to shape the institutions of free TV in Britain, and we see the second process as a continuing one as changes and developments occur in television itself.


Courtesy of RAX118G


The authority has to secure competition among a number of independent companies. This might have been obtained in various ways. One obvious way would have been to have “networked” all the programmes over our linked system of stations and to have allocated portions of network time to different companies. Since the system would begin in London and there tends, inevitably, to be a concentration of entertainment resources in the capital, this method of dividing the time among the programme companies would have meant that a second system of centrally produced programmes would have been presented to television viewers. And it would have made it very difficult indeed to fit further programme companies into the network as further stations were opened.

The authority rejected this system in favour of one by which there would be local programme-producing companies at the different stations. Such a pattern of local programmes is new to television broadcasting in this country, and Sir Robert Fraser, the director-general, has called the decision to adopt it the most important one the authority is ever likely to take.

Although there will be one or more local programme companies for each of our stations, the programmes need not all be locally produced as the stations will be connected by a network of television lines and the companies will buy and sell programmes among themselves.

As the system grows we shall expect to see a corresponding growth in the variety of the programmes available, although naturally the stations covering the less densely populated areas will not be able to originate as many programmes as the larger stations; their function will be rather that of supplying local programmes and news items as additions to the programmes imported from the larger stations.

That, then, in brief outline, is the policy for independent television in Britain. In little more than a year since Parliament legislated to end the broadcasting monopoly, independent television programmes are on the air, and the foundations of the whole system have been laid.

All of us in independent television, administrators and producers of programme material alike, have a great responsibility — and a great opportunity. We in the authority gladly accept that responsibility and intend to grasp the opportunity.


You Say

2 responses to this article

Ray Wilson 14 February 2022 at 6:25 pm

Another cracking article..

Andy Roberts 28 February 2022 at 9:03 pm

Granada should get some credit for not including the word ‘Associated’ in their name!

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