V. The Programme Possibilities

18.

In programme terms there is a whole range of needs which cannot properly be satisfied by Independent Television unless scope for expansion can be provided by means of a second service planned in conjunction with the first. It is true that to a limited degree these needs, or some of them, can be met within the confines of a single service, especially if it is allowed to build up its transmission hours free from the existing restrictions. But viewers and programme makers would increasingly see the restrictions of a single service as depriving them of great opportunities. The alternative— an essential one, in the Authority’s view—is to extend ITV’s public service through a second channel which presents programmes coming from a wider number of sources and catering for a greater variety of viewers’ interests.

HTV outside broadcast

19.

It is time to be more specific about some of the fields in which opportunities would arise:

(i)

It would be possible to deal in greater depth and detail, and more frequently, with current affairs, with arts and sciences, with political, economic, and social issues.

(ii)

In an age of increased leisure, television can support a wide range of leisure pursuits; some of these, like gardening and motoring, have very wide appeal, while many others command smaller followings but equal, or greater, devotion.

(iii)

To travel vicariously, to see what cannot be seen from the windows of home, is a special enrichment that can be enjoyed through television. As more viewers have colour sets, the importance of this will grow; more programmes of this kind in peak time should foster its growth and widen understanding. The relevance of Europe and of European programmes is obvious here.

The Big Match (London Weekend)

(iv)

It is desirable to stimulate the production of programmes of an experimental nature. These are, by definition, impossible to specify in advance. The need for freedom to experiment applies not only to production and writing techniques but also to assessing audience reaction to different types of programmes, whether they be designed to appeal to the mass audience or to particular parts of it.

(v)

Extended coverage would be possible for a number of sporting events of all kinds. The interests of those who like sport often conflict, on a single channel, with the needs of schools or housewives or children or general viewers. Moreover, sports which, though pleasing to watch, have only a limited following cannot easily be shown. Clearly lovers of sport, and haters of sport, are much better served by two channels.

Westward outside broadcast van

(vi)

It is an incentive towards excellence in educational and other serious programme fields if better viewing times are available for some of this output. More viewers should have the chance to see such programmes; more viewers (though possibly never a majority) will want to see such programmes as levels of education rise. There are a number of educational needs (both curricular and informal, for adults and for children) to which television could make a unique contribution, and which are not at present being catered for on any channel. We would wish to explore ways in which the additional capacity provided by an extra service could be used for these purposes.

(vii)

ITV lacks the equivalent of a newspaper’s correspondence column. It has too few opportunities of hearing from viewers, and of conducting some dialogue about television itself and about the job which it is, or should be, doing. Without becoming narcissistic, we should hope that a second channel could enable us to deal more fully with television itself.

(viii)

Much first-class television material goes to waste after a single showing. In a two-channel service there is scope for the planned repeating of worthwhile programmes of all kinds between the two channels.

(ix)

Some of the programmes of the regional companies which are at present excluded from the network, because of too much programme pressure on too few outlets, should have wider distribution; creative staff will then be less drawn to the central companies if regional companies have opportunities for programme making that will effectively challenge their talents. Major centres of regular network programme production already exist in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. There is the production capacity available to add Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol, Newcastle, Southampton, Norwich and possibly Plymouth to this list. The result would not only be a valuable stimulus to the system: it would also perform a social function, which ITV by its own record has always supported, of countering tendencies that would focus the nation’s life too strongly on the metropolis.

Southern Television staff on the studio floor

(x)

With more elbow-room, ITV would be freer to explore what can be offered by independent programme makers; and to act as patrons to such independents, encouraging, purchasing or commissioning their work.

(xi)

In the particular case of Wales, the introduction of a second ITV service could do much to relieve the tensions which arise at present in attempting to provide a general service and also to serve the special needs and interests of those living in Wales—particularly those who want to have programmes in the Welsh language at good viewing times. Even if the programming of ITV 2 were largely on a national basis, there would be the opportunity for regional opt-outs during which programmes of special interest for Wales and in the Welsh language could be shown. It would also be possible for such programmes to be shown on ITV 1 in the knowledge that an alternative programme was available on ITV 2. All this is quite apart from the availability of the ITV 2 channel during the daytime and in the early evening when it would generally not be transmitting ITV 2. For we are assuming that ITV 2, like BBC 2, would be mainly an evening and weekend service.

These and other opportunities could be met by a second ITV service which would complement and supplement the output of ITV 1, with numerous common junctions, so that a choice could be offered in accordance with Section 25 of the Act.

Gordon Burns reports (Ulster)

20.

Complementary planning of a two-channel ITV service is not just a question of calling a new channel into existence to redress the balance of the old. ITV 1, as it now exists, to a great extent already provides as balanced a service as can be expected from a single channel which is financed solely from the sale of advertising time. Some 30 to 35 per cent overall of the average weekly output is classified as serious, and this figure excludes all drama of whatever kind. In broad terms the essential elements of ‘proper balance’ already provided in the single service are (a) adequate daily bulletins of national news; (b) political programmes; (c) social programmes; (d) documentary programmes; (e) cultural programmes (i.e. the arts, history, science); (f) religious programmes; and (g) educational programmes for schools and adult audiences. Programmes in most of these categories are already to be found in the evening hours.

21.

The Authority does not envisage the arrival of a second channel leading to any significant change in this balance on the first channel. Consequently, if ITV 2 is to be a genuine counterpart to ITV 1, with a view to both channels together catering for a wider spectrum of tastes and interests, then it would follow that a substantially higher proportion of its programmes than of those on ITV 1 would be classified as serious. More important, perhaps, it would be able to show a much higher proportion of its serious output in peak time. All this does not mean to say that ITV 2 should predominantly contain programmes of minority appeal. It would be the Authority’s intention that both its services should have their own forms of balance and range. In the case of ITV 2, there would be advantage in a variety of programme elements so that the audience would be carried forward from diverting programmes to more demanding ones.

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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