Foreword

This submission gives the Authority’s considered views about the use of the fourth UHF television channel in this country.

It proposes that there should be a fourth television service and that it should form part of the Independent Television system; that there should be no additional programme companies appointed as a result of the introduction of this ITV 2; that there should be closer involvement by the ITA in the programme planning processes of the combined Independent Television programmes, both streams of which would operate in relation to each other on a complementary and non-competitive basis; and that a two-service ITV system should provide freer access to the national audience for programmes from all sources, including Independent Television’s regional companies and outside producing agencies.

The Authority’s interest is solely that of improving the service, and it bases its proposal that there should be a second Independent Television channel upon the wider range of programming which could then be broadcast. ITV 1 has had marked success in providing programmes that are attractive. An ITV 2 would unquestionably enlarge the range available to the audience as a whole. It would also benefit sections of the total audience who have particular interests which cannot often be catered for, at least in peak time, within the confines of a single service.

Competition between two public services, one financed through licence revenue and the other supported by advertising, is something which has strengthened television since it was first introduced in the mid-1950s. Competition on equal terms between the same services, each with two complementary television channels, should improve the service given.

A meeting of The Independent Television Authority - left to right: Mr H W McMullan, OBE; Baroness Macleod of Borve, JP; Dr T F Carberry; Mr A W Page; Sir Ronald Gould (Deputy Chairman); The Rt Hon. Lord Aylestone, CBE (Chairman); Mr Brian Young (Director General); Baroness Sharp of Hornsey, GBE; Mr Stephen Keynes; Sir Frederick Hayday, CBE; Mr T Glyn Davies, CBE; Professor J M Meek.

The Authority has not confined its discussions to the question of a second Independent Television channel; it has also looked at other possibilities, as is explained later. Its firm conclusion is that the viewers’ interest will best be served by a second ITV service of the kind described. The argument is now developed in detail under the following headings:

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II. Background to the Present Proposals

5.

Before 1970 the Authority had on a number of occasions considered the possibility of a second ITV service. The first reference to the desirability of there being two services was made in 1955 in the Authority’s first Annual Report. Then, in the first half of the 1960s, there were further expressions of interest in the subject both from the Authority’s side and from the Government’s. In its White Paper of December 1962 the Government of the day, in deferring any decision to authorise a second ITA programme, said that it still felt such a programme might prove to be desirable in order to allow full scope for Independent Television to offer more selection to viewers and to experiment. Up to this stage, the assumption was being made by the Authority and by Government that both services would operate on a competitive basis and be run by different people.

6.

In the White Paper of December 1966, the Government of the day announced that there would be no allocation of frequencies to a fourth television service for the following three years at any rate. In 1969 there were informal discussions with the Post Office about the possibility of ITV 2, but these were not pursued because of the serious financial position of Independent Television in that year. The Authority continued to hope, however, that a second service could be authorised which would, by giving ITV the same opportunities as the BBC had had since 1964, lead to a situation of parity, both of competition for the viewers and of ability to offer them a full range of programming, between the two separate public services of television in the United Kingdom.

London Weekend's studios

7.

In 1970 the Authority and its Policy Committee gave fresh consideration to the question of ITV 2. For it was clear that, apart from the need for ITV to have sufficient funds for the provision of the best possible programmes (a need which led to representations about the Levy and to the Government’s decision in this matter), the most important requirement of Independent Television was that it should be enabled to offer a wider range of service. Restricted hours and a single channel lead to frustrations for the viewer who wants the same range on ITV as he can obtain from the BBC’s two channels, and frustration for the programme maker whose chance of innovating and of providing for particular audiences is much reduced by the constraints of a single channel. ITV is obliged, as it were, to cater for readers of The Guardian, The Express, and The Mirror, within the confines of a single channel. It seemed to the Authority that the removal of these constraints was, together with a derestriction of the permitted hours of broadcasting, essential if ITV was to improve and broaden its service during the 1970s in the way that the Authority wished.

8.

In the course of its discussions, the Authority dwelt particularly on the following points:

(i)

If the service given by ITV was to be broadened and was to cater for a number of interests which we try not to neglect but which we cannot serve as adequately as we would wish, then the second service must be complementary to the first and not competitive with it. All the evidence suggested that competitive programming did not enlarge the range of choice: indeed, it tended to narrow it. Competition has its own advantages in sharpening effort and increasing attention to what the viewer wants; but this sharpness has already been brought into television by competition between ITV and BBC.

(ii)

ITV is already equipped with more facilities than the BBC and with a more disparate collection of creative enterprises. This is due to its deliberate decision to provide a federal and regional structure for Independent Television’s service. But the result is an amount of programme production which, while consistent with the regional structure, is in total more than is needed for a minimum single-service output. Potentially, there exist the means of providing between two and three times the amount of material that a single channel requires. It is therefore plain that any expansion of the service, relying (as it will have to rely) on quite small expansion in income, must make use of potential within the present structure for the most part, and not expect to duplicate that structure. The existence of this reserve meant that the Authority could look forward past the financial problems that then existed to a situation in which quite a small improvement in resources might make it possible to start planning for a second channel.

Southern's studios

9.

Since the Authority neither produces programmes nor sells advertising, the next step was to discuss with the companies actually producing the programmes of Independent Television such matters as the likelihood of additional revenue from ITV 2, what a complementary service might mean in terms of programme categories, what the extent and location of surplus studios were, and the scope that there would be for increased regional opportunities in a two-service situation. The Authority therefore decided to set up a joint working party of members of the Standing Consultative Committee, drawn both from the Authority’s staff and from the representatives of companies. This working party had six meetings between May and November 1971.

10.

It also seemed right, in a matter of such importance for the future of Independent Television, that the views of those working in the industry should be canvassed in a more general way. The Authority therefore decided to ask for ideas from within ITV generally, and from trade unions and societies with relevant membership, and to have these discussed at a Consultation towards the end of the year. In order that this discussion could be frank and positive, we decided that it should not be a public debate attended by the Press. The result of this arrangement was that a large number of questions were considered in fair detail and a range of useful views expressed by those who had experience of the working of Independent Television at all levels.

Yorkshire Television's studios

11.

The Authority also invited the views of its General Advisory Council and its Educational Advisory Council; during its discussions, it has also learnt, through information gained by membership of the European Broadcasting Union and through staff visits, of the experience of other countries which have more than one broadcasting service. In addition, it has taken account of the views of bodies representing the advertising industry, as given both in informal discussions and through the Press, and it has also received the views of a number of programme producers from outside Independent Television. These contacts, together with the Authority’s interest in the current Press discussion of this and other aspects of the future of broadcasting, mean that it has considered the various implications of any proposals for ITV 2.

12.

Although the proposals are now being put forward after the collection and examination of a wide range of views and data the Authority has accepted from the outset that it is for Government to set the proposals in perspective and to take a decision.

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IV. ITV 2 Complementary to and Not Competitive with ITV 1

16.

The 1964 Television Act, in Section 25, requires that where there is more than one ITV service the Authority shall:

ensure that, so far as possible, the same kind of subject matter is not broadcast at the same time in the different programmes.

To some people, the provision of a complementary service is merely the avoidance of clashes as required by the Act. To the Authority, however, a truly complementary second service is one which, as well as being planned to provide alternative types of programme for the viewer at any given time, serves to complete and fill out the range of ITV programmes available. It is one which enables Independent Television to find the elbow-room referred to earlier.

17.

It is possible to conceive of a complementary ITV 2 service provided by a programme company, or group of programme companies, separate from those of ITV 1 and in competition with them for the viewing audience, and therefore for advertising revenue. But in functional terms such an arrangement could not work. For each service would have an interest in looking to the size of its audience at any given time and would be competing not only with the BBC but with the other ITV service. This would be bound to affect the programme content and scheduling of the two ITV services, and to diminish opportunities to screen programmes designed for, say, 10 per cent of the viewers. A better situation would be one where programmes could be planned and scheduled without regard to their relative audiences as between ITV 1 and ITV 2. Thus, if there were a light entertainment programme on ITV 1, it would be better scheduling, in the Authority’s view, if the programme going out on ITV 2 were, for example, an arts or documentary programme, or an experimental programme, of a type likely to please those viewers who would not be attracted by what was on ITV 1. This programming policy points to a system where the two Independent channels are as little as possible in rivalry with each other for the same part of the audience at the same time, although there would be competition on an equal footing with the BBC. If this complementarity between ITV 1 and ITV 2 is achieved, then a wider range of the total audience will be provided with programmes which are to their taste. A self-supporting single service will always find it difficult regularly to screen programmes which it is known will attract a relatively small proportion of the total audience. With two services, the planners will be able to accept the possibility of small audiences at peak time with equanimity, since the audience for the alternative ITV programme need not be substantially affected. There is therefore, in a complementary situation, an inherent, rather than an imposed, reason for scheduling programmes in the way that serves the viewer best; and planners are not tempted to place programmes of mass appeal against each other, since that would diminish the following of both.

Scotsport: Arthur Monford presents up-to-the-minute sports coverage (Scottish)
Gus Honeybun and Roger Shaw read birthday messages (Westward)
Newscasters Andrew Gardner and Reginald Bosanquet (ITN)
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1971 // TRANSDIFFUSION BROADCASTING SYSTEM