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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XII. The Timing of ITV 2

47.

If an early start for ITV 2 were authorised without delay, it would be possible for first transmissions to start in 1974. This, together with an early derestriction of television broadcasting hours, would enable the Authority to extend its service to the public. By 1974, Independent Television will be nearly twenty years old, having broadcast, with limited hours, only one service during the whole of that period. During the same period there have been a number of Government indications that the Authority would in due course be authorised to open a second channel in order that it might, to quote the December 1962 White Paper, be given full scope to offer more selection to viewers and to experiment. The Authority itself has consistently felt that this further outlet for Independent Television should be given. There is thus nothing new in the idea of ITV 2. The start of ITV 2 transmissions in 1974 would take its place in an orderly progression in the television services available in this country: 1946, the restart of BBC 1 after the War; 1955, the start of ITV transmissions; 1964, the start of BBC 2; and 1974 the start of ITV 2. During the recent Consultation, reference was made by a number of people from the creative side to the need for television to take a further stride forward if the danger of stagnation and frustration is to be avoided.

48.

The Authority understands the attitude of those who say that a decision about the allocation of the fourth (and, for the time being, only remaining) channel should be delayed until it can take its place with any other changes in the pattern of broadcasting in the United Kingdom for the post-1976 period. 1976 is, however, five years away, and if a decision about a further television service is to become effective only after that date, then the public and those people who work in broadcasting and who have been hoping for further opportunities to deploy their creativity and their talent must wait quite a long while. Moreover, though audiences for ITV 2 should become established more quickly than BBC 2 (as more sets are UHF), station building would be a gradual process; thus, if ITV 2 were authorised in 1972 and began in 1974, it would still not cover a majority of regions before 1976.

49.

Even if there are reservations on the part of Government about an actual start before 1976, there are important reasons why the Authority should receive a decision in good time. Assuming that ITV’s present broad two-tier structure, with programme providers in contractual relationship with a public authority, continues, the ITA and the companies would need to know well before 1976 if there was to be a second service after that date—and preferably to see its operations beginning in practice. This would enable the ITA to provide the necessary transmitters for the service to operate fully from 1976, simultaneously with the start of new contract arrangements. The Authority would also be able to plan the future shape of the system, and negotiate contracts on a clear basis. The expiry of the present statutory term of the system in 1976 is sufficient of itself to run counter to the maintenance of that sense of stability which the National Board for Prices and Incomes last year called ITV’s greatest requirement. It would be even more damaging if the Authority had to grant interim contracts for a short period after 1976 pending the completion of arrangements for the full introduction of a second ITV service.

The new Emley Moor mast in Yorkshire

50.

But the main reason for asking that an early decision be taken, preferably that ITV 2 may begin in 1974, is simply that we believe this step to be the right one for reasons which we have given fully in this submission. If the service needs this development, for the viewer’s sake and for its own, and if the next two or three years offer a good time for bringing it to birth, then we would regret seeing this, or any other broadcasting development, postponed for extraneous reasons. To freeze arrangements for some years does not seem to us to make for better scrutiny or for better arrangements.

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1971 // TRANSDIFFUSION BROADCASTING SYSTEM