Doing numbers 

4 August 2023 tbs.pm/79958

When the ITV franchises were re-awarded in 1980 for a 1982 start, the contractors – old and new – were told that they would be paying for the new fourth channel.

There was no negotiation company-by-company: the Independent Broadcasting Authority would levy a set amount on each one that would finance the alternative programmes on what would become Channel 4 (and, for half of HTV, S4C).

At the end of July 1981, the IBA told them how much it wanted from each of them for 1982.

It’s not clear exactly what the basis of these figures are. It can’t be profit – TSW and TVS haven’t started broadcasting yet, Thames hadn’t handed off the lucrative 5.15pm to 7pm slot to LWT; and it can’t be projected revenue – Central’s construction costs and divorce from Associated Communications Corporation where going to be expensive and depress that by an effectively random amount.

Instead, what we get is something like a value judgement: the IBA’s expectation of what each contract was worth and thus how much they could safely take from it.

Everywhere that printed these at the time did so in alphabetical order.

 

Company Subscription
Anglia £2,550,000
Border £50,000
Central £6,300,000
Channel £30,000
Grampian £120,000
Granada £7,550,000
HTV £2,450,000
London Weekend £6,100,000
Scottish £2,350,000
Thames £7,750,000
TSW £870,000
TVS £4,600,000
Tyne Tees £2,600,000
Ulster £80,000
Yorkshire £5,600,000

 

But sorting the figures by the amount to be paid gives us a different way of looking at the system:

 

Company Subscription
Thames £7,750,000
Granada £7,550,000
Central £6,300,000
London Weekend £6,100,000
Yorkshire £5,600,000
TVS £4,600,000
Tyne Tees £2,600,000
Anglia £2,550,000
HTV £2,450,000
Scottish £2,350,000
TSW £870,000
Grampian £120,000
Ulster £80,000
Border £50,000
Channel £30,000

 

It comes as no surprise that Thames is the largest company, even with the prospect of losing 1¾ hours off Fridays from 1982. It’s also no surprise that Channel is the smallest.

But there’s some other positions that, while not surprising exactly, are at least unexpected.

 

A pie chart showing the data from the table above

 

For instance, Granada’s contract is “more valuable” than Central’s, according to the IBA. I’d’ve said that sounds right, but would’ve thought that Central would’ve been much closer – perhaps that’s the reorganisation costs being taken into account. You can also see how close to being one of the “Big Five” that TVS was, and thus why they tried everything to make it into a “Big Six”, to the point of lobbying for what became the Broadcasting Act 1990 and sowing the seeds of their own downfall.

But that Tyne Tees is more valuable than Anglia? I wasn’t expecting that: I’d’ve thought they were the other way around.

Hell, I’d’ve thought that STV would’ve been more valuable than HTV, and that these two Celtic tigers would be in front of TTT and Anglia.

And then there’s Ulster, below Grampian and nearer to Border in value, perhaps reflecting the terrible circumstances of the region in the 1970s and 80s.

No conclusions here, just numbers.

 

You Say

1 response to this article

Jeremy Rogers 16 August 2023 at 2:04 pm

The methodology adopted was based on forecasts for the Net Advertising Revenue. In the end the IBA borrowed £30M so that the particularly financially stretched companies could pay it off in instalments. From 1986 it was fixed at 17% NAR to stop annual wrangling.

This wasn’t all that the ITV companies paid as the cost of the C4 transmitters came out of the ITV companies’ rental.

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