Small but strong 

21 March 2022 tbs.pm/74935

 

Cover of Television & Radio 1986

From Television and Radio 1986, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority

An area no bigger than Havant in Hampshire with a total resident population of fewer than 130,000 people living in about 47,000 homes might be thought insufficient to sustain an ITV contractor on an economic footing.

But soon after the birth of ITV the then Independent Television Authority granted a franchise to a company called Channel Island Communications (Television) Ltd. to operate Independent Television in a region comprising Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and a few other almost uninhabited islands.

Channel Television went on the air for the first time on 1st September 1962. Twenty-three years later, despite economic crises, network industrial disputes, inflation, and a multitude of additional problems, Channel is still on the air.

It has not been easy. Within months of its launch Channel was made acutely aware that the comfortable financial position of some of the other television companies would not extend to ITV’s southernmost region. Early revenue forecasts proved wildly optimistic and it soon became clear Channel’s main preoccupation in the early years would be a fight for survival. Slowly the probability of failure receded and eventually patient investors were rewarded with modest dividends.

Despite the difficulties of the early days Channel quickly built a proportionately large and very loyal audience. It was the first news medium ever successfully to cover all the Channel Islands, and its detached, unbiased view of local current affairs was something new to a population served previously only by Jersey and Guernsey newspapers.

 

A camera crew in a garden

Best-selling novelist Jack Higgins was just one of Jersey’s resident millionaires interviewed for Channel Television’s documentary In Exile – The Men That Midas Touched.

 

Today, although far from a wealthy company, Channel Television is economically stable. It will never attract the higher advertising of larger ITV companies but it should continue to be able to provide the sort of comprehensive local programme service that is the essence, and strength of regional ITV.

 

 

With modern studio facilities in Jersey and Guernsey and up to four electronic news gathering units available for deployment, Channel specialises in news, current affairs and documentary programmes. The smaller islands of Alderney and Sark and tiny Herm are watched by resident correspondents and when a significant story breaks a unit is sent by air or sea from one of the main bases. Thanks to an IBA micro-wave link between the studio centres, a late breaking Guernsey story can be handled without delay and good inter-island communications bring the smaller parts of the region within easy reach.

 

A man and a stuffed puffin in an aeroplane

His full name is Oscar Grosnez Corbiere Claude, but thousands of Channel Island youngsters know him simply as Oscar Puffin, star of Puffin’s Pla(i)ce in which, helped by an announcer, Channel’s mascot sends birthday greetings. Here he shows announcer Tony Scott Warren how to fly a Red Arrow jet.

 

Despite the problems posed in a region comprising mostly sea dotted with small centres of population, Channel with fewer than 100 staff produces more programmes of local interest than is required by the IBA. By far the smallest of all the ITV stations it has its roots so deeply imbedded in the region it serves that it comes as close to Community Television as is possible within the federal structure of Independent Television.

 

 

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Liverpool, Wednesday 6 July 2022