The regions on the network 

14 August 2023

do the smaller ITV stations get a fair crack of the whip on the national television network? With programmes such as the quiz Three Little Words and Food, Wine and Friends now on screen around the country, HTV, the company serving Wales and part of the West Country, has lately been getting a bigger share of the network. Here their new programme controller, Ron Evans, has his say on behalf of the smaller regions…



Cover of TVTimes

From TVTimes for 12 January 1980

IT’S A SAFE bet that 10 years ago, none but a television nut would have known the names of many ITV companies except his own local station and the big “network producers” — Thames, London Weekend, ATV, Granada and Yorkshire.

Not so today. Now the symbols of the regional companies, such as Southern TV’s compass or Anglia’s knight in armour, top and tail their shows on the ITV network more and more often.

Apt timing, then, for the question: “How do the regionals get on the network?” That is, how can a small ITV company get its shows screened all over Britain and not just in its own area?

“With a lot of difficulty,” would be the flip answer, but that evades the facts.

The latest available figures —f or 1977-78 — show that 460 hours of original material from the regions was screened by more than half the network. Six years earlier that total was just 165 hours. So there is more from the regions. But is it enough?

ITV regularly doles out large slices of regional life: Emmerdale Farm from Yorkshire, Coronation Street from Lancashire, Crossroads from the Midlands.

Yet this image of everyday Britain reflects exclusively a way of life in areas served by large ITV companies which have the right, the responsibility, plus — more importantly — the skills, to service the network.

The ITV structure has the five major networking companies in the mass population areas, and grouped around them smaller companies charged with regional responsibility.

These companies say that programmes for their region are their priority. They know their network appearances are “occasional, not systematic, and on sheer merit”.

But programme-makers of skill and enterprise, whom the regions need to attract and hold to preserve their own local programme standards, also seek a wider stage.

Talent is talent, wherever it surfaces, and a good idea is good wherever it comes from. Yet when the two come together and a worthy programme results, there is more chance of it reaching a network audience if it happens in, say, Leeds, home of Yorkshire Television, than in Aberdeen or Bristol.

So, to make the grade, the regions have to try harder, spend extra, worry more — and recent shows such as Spearhead from Southern, Kidnapped from HTV or Charles Endell, Esquire from Scottish TV are the byproducts.



A risk smaller companies take when they spend money to create a good production is that the programme might never gain a wide viewing.

But more broadcasting hours, more revenue and a greater awareness of their own and their region’s identity are providing the companies with the drive and opportunity to seek a place in the network mosaic.

The coming fourth channel will give the regions a bigger guaranteed share of air-time on the new national network, so the wealth of talent and ideas around the country should have much more exposure than at present.

Ahead of its time in the 1950s, the ITV concept of regionalism shattered the prevailing style of centralised control from the metropolis in broadcasting.

Twenty-five years on, and with another channel soon available, the smaller companies of ITV are ready to make a bigger mark on the network map. It’s a challenge they will be keen to accept, and my hope is that it will mean better and much more varied television for everyone.


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