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Should (and could) ITV regionalise again?

Should, and could, ITV create a more localised, but national service, be reinstated?

BR
Brekkie Wales Wales Today
Yes, regional TV was never about local idents or who could have the most garish news room - it was about the region itself, reflecting that on screen and having a strong network of regional production centres.
Turns out nobody had 2020 vision.
BL
bluecortina
Pretty much agree with the general consensus on the thread, the days of ITV regional identity are long gone. Although its always been known as ITV, branding homogenization started in 1989 with the Get Ready campaign and the subsequent Broadcasting Act of 1990, which led to mergers leading to Carlton (who had little interest in regional identity in the first place and was slowly phased in by Central, although their final idents were a great package by Lambie-Nairn) and Granada (who just used the generic hearts idents and slapped the local franchise logo on it, except for poor Border, at least LWT had some slight uniqueness towards the end) as the final two. The collapse of ITV Digital may of accelerated the inevitable merger of Carlton and Granada.

It's nearly been 20 years without regional identity in England and Wales, that's basically a new generation who never experienced ITV in its original franchised configuration and the new generation is watching less linear TV than the ones before. I agree that there is a nostalgia for the way things were, although its not the same today, ITV haven't forgot their past and acknowledge it occasionally, they just "modernised" to adapt to the new climate. The franchising system (to a degree) stops a single company from having too much control in commercial British broadcasting, but with multichannel broadcasting its not needed anymore.

The "Channel 3" franchising system still exists as a legal technicality, with automatic renewal and no actual franchise rounds taking place but I think it will eventually be scrapped if ITV plc buys out STV.

A unified ITV means they have a single brand that can be marketed around the UK and around the world, it also means no more complex co-ordination involving franchised companies which sometimes have disagreements.

With ITV being more of a publisher broadcaster compared to the franchising days, it has opened up ITV more to other independent studios, even Thames (under different ownership) still exists and is still making programmes for ITV.

However, I do agree with more localised programming, ITV (and the BBC) would do a better job than the Local TV channels which have been a flop.


There is no Channel 3 franchising system - applicants apply for a licence to broadcast. There is no system of automatic renewal. The current licences expire at towards the end of 2024 and the Secretary of State at the DCMS will decide what will happen to the licences after that.
RC
RegularCapital Central (West) Midlands Today
Pretty much agree with the general consensus on the thread, the days of ITV regional identity are long gone. Although its always been known as ITV, branding homogenization started in 1989 with the Get Ready campaign and the subsequent Broadcasting Act of 1990, which led to mergers leading to Carlton (who had little interest in regional identity in the first place and was slowly phased in by Central, although their final idents were a great package by Lambie-Nairn) and Granada (who just used the generic hearts idents and slapped the local franchise logo on it, except for poor Border, at least LWT had some slight uniqueness towards the end) as the final two. The collapse of ITV Digital may of accelerated the inevitable merger of Carlton and Granada.

It's nearly been 20 years without regional identity in England and Wales, that's basically a new generation who never experienced ITV in its original franchised configuration and the new generation is watching less linear TV than the ones before. I agree that there is a nostalgia for the way things were, although its not the same today, ITV haven't forgot their past and acknowledge it occasionally, they just "modernised" to adapt to the new climate. The franchising system (to a degree) stops a single company from having too much control in commercial British broadcasting, but with multichannel broadcasting its not needed anymore.

The "Channel 3" franchising system still exists as a legal technicality, with automatic renewal and no actual franchise rounds taking place but I think it will eventually be scrapped if ITV plc buys out STV.

A unified ITV means they have a single brand that can be marketed around the UK and around the world, it also means no more complex co-ordination involving franchised companies which sometimes have disagreements.

With ITV being more of a publisher broadcaster compared to the franchising days, it has opened up ITV more to other independent studios, even Thames (under different ownership) still exists and is still making programmes for ITV.

However, I do agree with more localised programming, ITV (and the BBC) would do a better job than the Local TV channels which have been a flop.


There is no Channel 3 franchising system - applicants apply for a licence to broadcast. There is no system of automatic renewal. The current licences expire at towards the end of 2024 and the Secretary of State at the DCMS will decide what will happen to the licences after that.


That's just a formality though, it will go to ITV regardless, it's pretty much "automatic" approval.
RE
Revolution London London
There are many of us on this forum who have warm and fond memories of the old regional ITV system. I'm one of them. It wasn't just the logos or music or even the programmes that made the impact, it was the feeling that we as viewers were special because we were watching a programme that was for us, that was made for us. Whether it was Calendar or The 6'O Clock Show we were made to feel that the regional companies cared about us. We should cherish those memories

Now for the harsh truth.If you were to ask me what the turning point was that led to the ITV we have in 2020 I would say it wasn't the 1990 Broadcasting Act in itself (although it played a major part).

It was slightly before then. In 1989 when Sky launched it showed that there was another way of broadcasting in this country. Thematic "national" stations such as Sky Channel and Sky Movies (and briefly BSB in 1992) opened the door for the big American companies to start to make inroads into the UK.

The truth is this. There is no way at all that the old regional ITV could exist in 2020. You would have the likes of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the rest, huge multinational giants against the fragmented, localised ITV. It would be a massacre

ITV had to change to survive and it may rankle some of you but merger was the only viable way. There may have been different ideas as regards keeping some regional content beyond the news (Thank You Michael Grade!) but the ITV we have now is a global player. Programmes such as The X factor, Downton Abbey, Broadchurch etc are known throughout the world and have proven to be both critical and commercial successes. ITV may have been a television service but it was first and foremost a business and the primary aim of a business is to make profits. Nothing stays the same forever and that includes ITV.

Or even before, when IBA awarded BSB its licence to digital satellite television in the mid-to-late 1980s. Because the end goal would have been the same: 'national' stations. Sky's structure was no different to BSB, what set them apart was the content. Sky only sped up its launch, registering its company outside of the UK (circumventing IBA's licence) to challenge the government's position on cross-ownership. But that didn't really drive subscriptions, and even after the merger (which Thatcher knowingly gave her blessing, undermining the 1990 act) there were problems that even Sam Chisholm couldn't solve overnight.

The deregulation of broadcasting was just more pronounced by the time the 1990 act came in -- competition incentives mergers. Like you say, ITV had to adapt, but if you read Ray Fitzwalter's book on Granada (or any of his newspaper writings) you get a real insight into the problems it brought.
NL
Ne1L C Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
Hmm I never thought of that. Its so easy to forget BSB predated Sky in terms of existence. The story of British broadcasting in the 1980's and 1990's is so convoluted.
RD
rdd Founding member
Indeed. Even though they may celebrate their birthday as 1989 now, Sky are around in some shape or form since 1982.
RI
Riaz
There is the question whether we have talent pools in our provincial towns and cities or whether they are excessively concentrated into London and Manchester?

Back in 2005, Thomas Friedman stated in his book The World is Flat that skills and opportunity are increasingly becoming evenly distributed across the world. I dispute his claims because the world appears to have concentrated pools of talent found in only a handful of localities surrounded by a huge swathe of land populated with people with limited expertise.

I'm of the opinion that the phenomenon of highly localised talent pools has not really received the attention that it deserves when it comes to economic planning.

Would it be realistically possible to establish a (successful) new TV channel in a city like Wolverhampton or is there simply not enough local talent there?
AK
Araminta Kane
To deal with some points raised here:

The importance given to Radio X by someone here (were they suggesting that it be merged with Heart? That is even more absurd, but I can't bring myself to read that post any further) was, as someone else said, ludicrous - but worse than that, it is a sign of the creepy racism that is so endemic in anorak culture (even Radio 3 plays more "music of black origin"). The style of music it features has been, in terms of the singles chart, on retreat to the margins for over a decade, and the music played on Capital Xtra now has a far bigger share of the pie - this was already the case when the latter station launched, but of course it had a different format then and much of the music played was EDM, whereas now there are no barriers at all to having a national commercial station with its current playlist. Even in the album chart, even a band as big as The 1975 drop away PDQ.

I would agree without argument that, in the economy we have developed, nothing but the current ITV could work - STV is a special case because of the strength of the pro-independence movement, without which it would have been taken over years ago (I had a weird moment of serendipity some years ago when travelling through Devon on a pilgrimage to Henry Williamson's old home at Georgeham - going through one particular village I did momentarily think "you could almost imagine that TSW could still exist", then immediately saw a row of houses all of which had dishes and very quickly was reminded of a huge part of the reason why it couldn't). The vexed question is: could it have survived had the technology still evolved but we had retained different economics, say in the event of a Tory victory in February 1974 ironically making Britain far more Left-wing and Europhile in later years, or whatever would have followed British defeat in the Falklands? How a surviving post-war consensus, or something to its Left even, would have coped with the technology which has been one of the driving forces behind deregulation and media saturation is one of my great fascinations. I think the world being evoked in this piece - http://www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2014/02/from-lewis_baston.html - which I would have loved but the readership being aimed at clearly would have hated, conceivably would have had a publicly-owned monopoly ISP and most likely would have protected BSB far more; note the implication in the intro re. the press.

So this is really all about counterfactuals, and whether or not a much more Left-wing economic consensus could have survived the technological changes without collapsing anyway, just at a later stage, because of them.

re. Riaz above: obviously Wolverhampton (since you mention it) will have a more parochial and fearful culture among the older white population because of the strength and scale of its vote for Brexit & Boris, but of course it does have a younger and more diverse population who easily could get played by Kenny Allstar and the like, in a way that areas such as I live in - whose population has grown largely because of white flight from the West Midlands conurbation - do not have in the same way, although of course the young people here do listen to and feel the music on a greater scale than even five years ago.
NL
Ne1L C Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
To deal with some points raised here:

The importance given to Radio X by someone here (were they suggesting that it be merged with Heart? That is even more absurd, but I can't bring myself to read that post any further) was, as someone else said, ludicrous - but worse than that, it is a sign of the creepy racism that is so endemic in anorak culture (even Radio 3 plays more "music of black origin"). The style of music it features has been, in terms of the singles chart, on retreat to the margins for over a decade, and the music played on Capital Xtra now has a far bigger share of the pie - this was already the case when the latter station launched, but of course it had a different format then and much of the music played was EDM, whereas now there are no barriers at all to having a national commercial station with its current playlist. Even in the album chart, even a band as big as The 1975 drop away PDQ.

I would agree without argument that, in the economy we have developed, nothing but the current ITV could work - STV is a special case because of the strength of the pro-independence movement, without which it would have been taken over years ago (I had a weird moment of serendipity some years ago when travelling through Devon on a pilgrimage to Henry Williamson's old home at Georgeham - going through one particular village I did momentarily think "you could almost imagine that TSW could still exist", then immediately saw a row of houses all of which had dishes and very quickly was reminded of a huge part of the reason why it couldn't). The vexed question is: could it have survived had the technology still evolved but we had retained different economics, say in the event of a Tory victory in February 1974 ironically making Britain far more Left-wing and Europhile in later years, or whatever would have followed British defeat in the Falklands? How a surviving post-war consensus, or something to its Left even, would have coped with the technology which has been one of the driving forces behind deregulation and media saturation is one of my great fascinations. I think the world being evoked in this piece - http://www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2014/02/from-lewis_baston.html - which I would have loved but the readership being aimed at clearly would have hated, conceivably would have had a publicly-owned monopoly ISP and most likely would have protected BSB far more; note the implication in the intro re. the press.

So this is really all about counterfactuals, and whether or not a much more Left-wing economic consensus could have survived the technological changes without collapsing anyway, just at a later stage, because of them.

re. Riaz above: obviously Wolverhampton (since you mention it) will have a more parochial and fearful culture among the older white population because of the strength and scale of its vote for Brexit & Boris, but of course it does have a younger and more diverse population who easily could get played by Kenny Allstar and the like, in a way that areas such as I live in - whose population has grown largely because of white flight from the West Midlands conurbation - do not have in the same way, although of course the young people here do listen to and feel the music on a greater scale than even five years ago.


That is a ridiculous and I have to say outrageous suggestion. My post had absolutely NO racist element all and to insinuate it is is an insult.

What I was suggesting was that if there was some kind of realignment of the commercial radio sector in this country along the lines of the proposal that Tim Goodwin proposed in his video and have a set of national licences to parallel the BBC national networks then "NBN Radio 1" would be an amalgamation of Heart and XFM -style programming with specialist programmes starting in the evening such as BBC Radio 1 do now I say if because it is a "what if" exercise and will never happen.




Its an interesting idea but would be rife with issues. The section referring to ITV, Channel 4 and 5 joining forces potentially with the Global Radio network would provide the BBC and Sky with a real competition but who would own what.

Likewise if the new "channel 4" were the regional broadcaster then they would either have to buy the current ITV regions studios etc or build their own which would be exceedingly expensive.

Thirdly how would programme allocation work. Who would get what? The likes of Emmerdale etc would be the focus of real competition beyond the three tv channels.

Still I can see how such a setup could work although UKIB sounds a bit too much like UKIP for me. I would call the network NBN or National Broadcasting Network:

NBN TV 1
Network programming as ITV now but with no local programming. 7PM to 9PM would be primetime. Saturday and Sunday mornings would be Children's programming

NBN TV 2
Local programmes with a 50/50 split between individual local area programmes between 12 PM and 7PM and then a "best of british strand" networking different regional programming across the network

NBN TV 3
Another national station with blocks of programming dedicated to documentaries, lifestyle, retro, sport with Sundays dedicated to movies.

News On NBN 1 provided by NBN News with NBN Newshours at 8 AM, 12 PM, 6 PM and 9 PM with local bulletins on NBN 2 at 9 AM. 1PM and 5 PM with a brief bulletin at closedown. NBC Sports News would be at 5.30 and 10.30 PM on NBN TV 3

NBN Radio 1: Heart/XFM
NBN Radio 2: Smooth
NBC Radio 3: Classic FM/Radio 4
NBN Radio Now: LBC/5 Live



This doesn't seem that solid. Heart and XFM really don't mix, neither do Radio 4 and Classic.

And NBH sounds way too american


NBN Radio 3 would have been based on an admittedly older format of ABC Radio National in Australia

To me NBN just sounded catchier

I find it incredible to believe that a question about whether ITV should re-regionalise can lead to suggestions of creeping racism. Surely if ITV did re-regionalise than it would be ant-racist because it would give the regions more of a voice. Not just black people, asian people, afro-carribbean people etc but also scottish people, welsh people and irish people (both north and south) as well as Cornish people, Black Country people etc.

And yes I know that it is the radio element that is the focus of my ire but it just seems so outrageous.
RI
Riaz
re. Riaz above: obviously Wolverhampton (since you mention it) will have a more parochial and fearful culture among the older white population because of the strength and scale of its vote for Brexit & Boris, but of course it does have a younger and more diverse population who easily could get played by Kenny Allstar and the like, in a way that areas such as I live in - whose population has grown largely because of white flight from the West Midlands conurbation - do not have in the same way, although of course the young people here do listen to and feel the music on a greater scale than even five years ago.


Whaaaaaat?

I picked Wolverhampton because it's a (former?) industrial city that isn't very chic or charming, but is conveniently located geographically with good transport links rather than located in the back of beyond.

The concern I had is whether London, and a lesser extent Manchester, is sucking the talent out of the rest of Britain to the point where it's difficult to create regionalised TV production and broadcasting.

Wolverhampton is not a bad city, and houses there are reasonably affordable, but is a new TV channel located in this city really capable of attracting talented folk who work in the TV industry in London?
NL
Ne1L C Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
Riaz posted:
re. Riaz above: obviously Wolverhampton (since you mention it) will have a more parochial and fearful culture among the older white population because of the strength and scale of its vote for Brexit & Boris, but of course it does have a younger and more diverse population who easily could get played by Kenny Allstar and the like, in a way that areas such as I live in - whose population has grown largely because of white flight from the West Midlands conurbation - do not have in the same way, although of course the young people here do listen to and feel the music on a greater scale than even five years ago.


Whaaaaaat?

I picked Wolverhampton because it's a (former?) industrial city that isn't very chic or charming, but is conveniently located geographically with good transport links rather than located in the back of beyond.

The concern I had is whether London, and a lesser extent Manchester, is sucking the talent out of the rest of Britain to the point where it's difficult to create regionalised TV production and broadcasting.

Wolverhampton is not a bad city, and houses there are reasonably affordable, but is a new TV channel located in this city really capable of attracting talented folk who work in the TV industry in London?


Its worth pointing out at this juncture that the IBA allocated 2 licences for London for fear one 7 day a week company would monopolise the talent

(sigh)
RI
Riaz
Its worth pointing out at this juncture that the IBA allocated 2 licences for London for fear one 7 day a week company would monopolise the talent


There were several reasons why 2 licences were allocated for London, including the region having a large population and the way it was not realistically possible to split it into smaller regions. The midlands and the north west / Yorkshire regions also had 2 licences allocated to them and a weekday weekend split.

Subsequently, ITV companies have opened new studios (most notably Central in Nottingham and TVS in Maidstone) in order to create new pools of talent. The closure of ITV studios after 1992 has decimated many local pools of talent which haven't been absorbed by indies.

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