VII. Alternative Possibilities

24.

There is then, within the ranks of those who work for Independent Television, broad agreement about what is wanted. But there have also been three other propositions examined by the Authority. They are best discussed here with the acknowledgement that two of them have been regarded favourably by the Authority in the past.

(i)

A COMPETITIVE SERVICE FURNISHED BY DIFFERENT CONTRACTORS?

It is now clear to us that this solution is not the right one. The reasons are not only that the range of the service is better enlarged by two complementary channels, and the public and the viewer better served thereby, but also that a double service on these lines would be so wasteful of resources, without greatly extending the present range of ITV programming, that it could only produce one of two consequences: either two inferior services would be run on inadequate budgets, or so much advertising revenue would be drawn into television advertising, if two decent services were to be supported, that newspapers and other media which rely on advertising revenue would be damaged and perhaps put out of business. We understand the attraction, in principle, for some advertisers of a system which would give them two competitive television outlets in the same place at the same time. But, in practical terms, we think that a competitive system on these lines would be injurious to the viewer, to ITV, and before long to the advertisers themselves. The fifteen different markets which ITV provides for advertisers represent the maximum competition which can exist without reducing programme standards and choices in a way that would be unacceptable to the Government, the Authority, and the public. The ITV 2 possibilities for the advertisers are likely to lie elsewhere than through competition, notably in the increased scope available for reaching the smaller sections of the total audience who will be attracted to the particular programmes of ITV 2.

(ii)

A FOURTH GENERAL SERVICE INDEPENDENT OF BBC AND ITA?

Many of the disadvantages of (i) apply to this idea also, with four further adverse factors to be taken into account. First, it would not be possible (unless some new superstructure were set up) even to secure the broad avoidance of programme clashes which the Authority would, under the Act, have to try to secure with competitive ITV services; there would, therefore, be no means of seeing that the services fitted together. Secondly, if the system were not supported by advertising, it could presumably only be supported by public money, which would raise various difficulties. Thirdly, there would be all the expense of setting up an entirely new broadcasting system which had its own supervisory body and studio facilities, and which, for transmission facilities, would have to come to some arrangement with the Authority and the BBC to use the common UHF sites. Fourthly, the new service would itself have all those constraints of a single-channel operation from which we now think it is in the public interest that we should be free.

(iii)

A SPECIALIZED FOURTH CHANNEL, PERHAPS FOR EDUCATION?

It is suggested by some that the allocation of the fourth and last of the UHF channels at present available should be for a serious purpose, that is, for increasing the amount of education and information available to the viewer, or alternatively for increasing the amount of experimental and unusual viewing, rather than for increasing the amount of entertainment. While we sympathize with the ideas underlying this proposal, we do not believe that the best way of achieving what is sought is by turning over one channel exclusively to this purpose. Already the three existing channels contain education, adult education, information, and so on, intermingled with programmes which have as their object the attraction of viewers. It seems to us that, if the fourth channel is to perform a real educational service— and not only for those who already feel that they want more education— it must not be a channel reserved for avowedly educational programmes; it must rather at times woo the viewer as well as lead him on to new experiences and new insights. The existence of a second ITV channel would, as we have indicated above, give good educational opportunities and would put more serious programming into peak hours. But we do not feel that making ITV 2 educational throughout the day would be the best way of performing the very important educational function (particularly for those who left school at 15) which we would want to see an ITV 2 performing. Our belief, therefore, is that those who ask for the fourth channel to serve a wholly educational purpose are both underestimating the degree to which, under our proposals, ITV 2 would differ, in its proportion of serious content, from ITV 1 and also overestimating the educational power of a channel which is solely and directly devoted to education. Moreover, on BBC 2 now (and perhaps ITV 2 in the future) there is no lack of channel space in the daytime hours, when programmes which are directly educational are most likely to meet untired minds. Our hope, therefore, is that ITV 2 would indeed perform, with ITV 1, a most vital service of educating and informing the mass of viewers—but without deterring them by carrying a special label which could diminish its effectiveness.

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1971 // TRANSDIFFUSION BROADCASTING SYSTEM