New Regional Network Welcomed By UTV
The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that the current regional network – ITV – could be replaced with a new local TV service. Something UTV have welcomed. ITV has since 1993 downscaled its regional offerings to save money.
The independent television network launched in September 1955, as a body of entirely independent local companies broadcasting to their own area. First on air was London, followed by the Midlands. Today ITV in England and Wales is owned by ITVplc, however there are still four ‘independent of the plc’ regions – in Scotland STV North and STV Central, CTV for the Channel Islands and UTV across Northern Ireland. However deregulation, allowing many of the regional broadcasters to merge and cutting back on public service requirements -including the number of hours of regional television produced – have seen ITV re-branded as ITV1 and local productions become virtually none-existent.
STV and UTV have gone against the ITVplc mantra of ‘shareholders first, viewers second’ and instead have continued to invest in local productions, including ‘The Hour’ in Scotland and The Seven Thirty Show in Northern Ireland. This has proved successful, UTV is one of the best performing regional outlets in the UK.
With such success they have welcomed today’s news of a new local television service.
Michael Wilson, Managing Director, UTV, said, “Our success is based on good, strong, well funded regional output. We agree that good local output can only survive with a strong backbone of networked content which will attract both viewers and advertisers to the service.
“The challenge for all interested in delivering a local service will be to make a new channel and opt-outs commercially viable very quickly. UTV’s experience at making cost effective, high quality local news and programming makes us ideally placed to take advantage of the potential new licenses being offered by the Secretary of State today.
“As the channel 3 licensee for Northern Ireland, UTV plays a central part in community life in our region and produces one of the most watched local news programmes in the UK, regularly attracting a share around 40% of the audience at 6.00pm. UTV also produces the only late night regional news and current affairs programme on any channel in the UK.
“This expertise in local content was one of the main reasons for UTV and its partners successful bid for the Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) project for Wales in February 2010.”
Hunt blamed the 1950s Tory government for the failure of the current regional ITV, suggesting the network of regional companies had not been set up locally correct. However technology was limited at the time of launch and ITV became a huge success over its first 40 years. In March 1956 a Gallup Poll was undertaken in the then only two ITV regions on air – London and Midlands. The question posed ‘which broadcaster do you prefer, the BBC or ITV?’
The ATV and ABC in the Midlands had been on barely a month, but 58% of those polled put the service above the BBC. 16% preferred the corporation. In London Rediffusion and ATV had also proved more popular with viewers than the BBC, with 16% opting for the licence fee funded service, while 60% opted for independent television. The rest in both polls were either unsure or had no preference.
The event of SKY Television has often been blamed for the decline of ITV, however viewers, former performers and ex-management have placed the decline squarely at greed alone.