625 - Andrew Wiseman's Television Room

Editorial:
ITV's Identity Crisis
Part 3 - Unification

Created Tu 20-Jun-06

In 2004, Carlton and Granada finally merged to form ITV plc, which would bring about further job cuts and still fewer hours of regional broadcasting in England...

So ITV is now a single company?

Yep. Shares in ITV plc, the result of the merger between Granada plc and Carlton Communications plc, began trading on the London Stock Exchange on Monday 2nd February 2004. ITV plc owns all of the regional Channel 3 licences in England & Wales, accounting for over 90% of ITV1's advertising revenues.

Scottish, Grampian, Channel and UTV remain outside of the ownership of ITV plc and continue to provide the ITV (or Channel 3) service to their respective regions.

Were any region names affected?

Yes. The Central England and West Country regions, previously controlled by Carlton, were given back their original names. So it was welcome back to Central and Westcountry! These names, plus those of the other ITV plc regions, would now appear on new production slides appearing at the end of regional programmes. The Carlton name would no longer be seen on these captions.

What about HTV?

The West of England region, also one of Carlton's, is now known as ITV West. Up until Merger day, HTV News lived on. But a new look for news programming, with the national and regional news now controlled by the ITV News Group, meant that HTV News became ITV West News and ITV Wales News. The merger killed off the last trace of the HTV brand on ITV.

What's happened to Carlton?

The Carlton brand is history. Its demise began in October 2002 when the new national continuity announcements arrangements brought the replacement of Carlton and LWT by ITV1 London. The Carlton logo was then removed from the idents seen at the start of regional programmes in Central England, the Westcountry and the West of England in December 2003 and from the captions seen at the end of these programmes when ITV plc was formed. This left only the captions used at the end of its productions for the network. These were lost when ITV revamped its image on 1st November 2004, ditching the celebrity idents, and rebranding all Carlton's network programmes, making them Granada productions. So Carlton, previously responsible for trying to wipe out Central and Westcountry, had now itself been obliterated.

What's happened to LWT?

As well as wiping out Carlton, Granada also removed the last remnants of the LWT brand, with LWT's network programmes becoming Granada London productions. Meridian's programming suffered the same treatment.

What's happened to the Anglia flag, the Yorkshire chevron and the Granada arrow?

Network programmes made by Anglia became Granada Anglia productions. Yorkshire and Tyne Tees made for the nation now ended with a Granada Yorkshire caption and Coronation Street became a Granada Manchester production. In fact, all network programming made by ITV plc companies became Granada productions and shared a new, purple caption shown after the closing credits. Individual company logos were abandoned.


 
An ITV1 ident from 2006 (12K)
 
STV logo 2006 (3K)
 

Where have all the regional programmes gone?

Since 1998, the number of hours of regional television provided by ITV has been falling. In her speech to BAFTA in June 2002, The Culture Minister, Tessa Jowell, said: "There has been speculation that ITV companies, on a course as they are for ever-more consolidation, will move away from their regional identities and their regional commitments... Let me take this opportunity to stress how inaccurate those views are... Regional character matters. We will look to Ofcom to defend it with vigour."

On 7th December 2004, Mrs Jowell faced questions from concerned MPs over Ofcom's proposals to cut ITV's regional non-news programming requirements to an hour per week. Early day motion 235, from a week earlier, called for Ofcom to rethink its plans and attracted 166 signatures. But Mrs Jowell refused to back the MPs and in February 2005 Ofcom reported that it would indeed be slashing the requirement by 58.9% to 64 minutes per week. The hours are expected to fall further in the future. (For more details, see Bectu's coverage of this story.)

But do people really care about regional programmes?

The NUJ certainly believes so. It has this to say in its fight against Ofcom's decision to slash regional programming hours:

Figures in the [Ofcom] report show that 96% of viewers are "very" or "quite interested" in programming reflecting what is going on in their city/town or village. Viewing figures for a topical non-news programme in the Border region recently gave ITV a 52.4 per cent share against EastEnders. Other non-news regional programme viewing figures demonstrate similar strengths of popularity.

But is it really that simple? At a speech in given in Manchester, Ofcom's Robin Foster said:

Do viewers value these forms of regional programming? The picture is complex. When there are no trade-offs involved, viewers tell us that they would like it to be sustained. When we asked them whether there should be more TV programmes shown in each part of the UK that are made specifically for and about that area, 60% agreed. But when they are asked to choose the top five types of programme that they feel are important - either to them personally or for society in general - relatively few people mention regional programming other than news, which is rated extremely highly.

The local branch of the NUJ in Manchester believes Ofcom has got it wrong.

Put one of our shows up against Eastenders? No problem. We'll get at least a 20 per cent viewer share. Put one of our current affairs shows on at 11pm on a Friday? Expect an audience share above 35 per cent. We have the figures to prove it. To state in the OFCOM report that regional programmes have poor viewing figures is a lie.

Has the Granada name now gone, too?

Little over a year after all ITV's in-house network output was labelled as a Granada production, the company changed its mind. On 16th January 2006 new logos were introduced on ITV's channels and a new closing animation introducing the ITV Productions brand began to be broadcast. For the first time in its 45-year history, Coronation Street would air without a Granada logo at the end.

What happened to the announcers for ITV1 Wales?

When the presentation for ITV was moved to London in 2002, Wales was given special consideration and was allowed its own ITV1 Wales continuity together with its own announcers. ITV changed its mind about this too. With the new ITV logo launched, the voices introducing programmes on ITV1 Wales are the now the same as those heard in England.

Are viewers in Scotland safe from the erosion of regional identities?

Nope. On 30th May 2006, the Grampian name disappeared. SMG decided to follow ITV's lead and imposed a single brand. Viewers in both the North and Central Scotland regions have now got the 'new' brand, STV, which was the old name for Scottish Television in the 1970s.

1. Carltonisation

In part one, Carlton kills off Central and Westcountry TV.

2. Consolidation

In part two, the further erosion of ITV's regional identities as a re-brand is introduced.

3. Unification

In part three, fewer hours of regional television and Grampian TV is history.

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