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Thursday, 15 September 2005, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
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Timeline: 50 years of ITV
Television Act sets framework for new channels.
Sir Winston Churchill's Conservative government brought in an act ending the BBC's TV monopoly by allowing commercial stations. The country was split into regions served by different companies. The first firms were AssociatedRediffusion for London during weekdays Granada for the north of England on weekdays ABC for the Midlands and north of England at weekends and ATV for the Midlands on weekdays and London at weekends.
22 September, 1955
ITV begins broadcasting.
The new commercial channel opened at 7.15pm with former BBC presenter Leslie Mitchell announcing for the first time "This is London." An excerpt of Elgar's overture Cockaigne followed. The first night only screened in London included extracts from plays inclduing Noel Coward's Private Lives a toothpaste commercial a boxing match and live coverage of the opening night party. The new station closed at 11.05pm with a prayer.
25 September, 1955
Sunday Night at the London Palladium debuts.
One of ITV's early cornerstones was its weekly variety show from London's Palladium theatre. Originally hosted by Tommy Trinder the programme showcased the biggest names of British showbusiness such as Cliff Richard Gracie Fields and later The Beatles. Bruce Forsyth was the best known host with his catchphrase "I'm in charge." The show ran until 1967 although the format was given a brief revival in 1973.
Armchair Theatre begins.
Young directors and writers were given an opportunity to have their work broadcast in this series of oneoff dramas. In 1960 A Night Out Harold Pinter' first work for television was broadcast. It was originally produced by ABC later by Thames Television.
Soap opera Coronation Street begins.
The world's longest running TV soap Coronation Street began as a twice weekly drama. The tale of life in Weatherfield a fictional town close to Manchester soon topped the TV ratings. By 1996 it was up to four episodes a week and it remains one of British TV's mostloved programmes.
Cult action show The Avengers makes its debut.
Stylised espionage spoof The Avengers was one of the many future cult TV shows served up by ITV in the 1960s and 1970s. Patrick Macnee played secret agent John Steed assisted by Honor Blackman as Dr Cathy Gale Diana Rigg as Emma Peel and Linda Thorson as Tara King. Creator Sydney Newman came up with the title before the full idea for the show. The series ran until 1969 clocking up 161 episodes. It has been screened in 120 countries.
Pop show Ready Steady Go launched.
Friday night music show Ready Steady Go was launched with the catchphrase "the weekend starts here". Originally shown in London the show later went out nationally. The BBC's Top of the Pops was not launched until January the following year. Tapping in to pop trends like Beatlemania it was hosted by Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan. Besides the Fab Four the Who the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones all appeared on the show. It ran until December 1966.
Franchise changes see ABC make way.
All ITV licences were renewed in the first franchise round in 1964. But criticism of contractors led the Independent Television Authority to wield the axe four years later. ABC and Rediffusion had to team up to form Thames for London weekdays. David Frost led the team which formed London Weekend Television. Granada got a full north western England contract while Yorkshire TV was created. In Wales and western England HTV took over from TWW amid controversy.
ITV hit by national technicians strike.
The upheaval caused by the franchise changes led to industrial unrest culminating in a strike by technicians. There were no job losses but some posts moved from one part of the country to another. An emergency national service had to be implemented by ITV including mostly prerecorded programmes and repeats. Strikers returned to work the following month.
Rural soap Emmerdale Farm unveiled.
Yorkshirebased soap opera Emmerdale Farm began as a daytime programme. Filmed largely outdoors it originally focussed on the farming Sugden family. The soap moved to an evening slot in the 1980s. In 1989 the show's title was shortened to Emmerdale. It now vies with BBC One's EastEnders as Britain's second favourite soap behind Coronation Street.
History series World at War begins.
The 26part documentary series covered the entire history of World War II from its causes in the 1920s to the Cold War aftermath. Narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier it featured archive footage from all the theatres of war. Entire episodes were dedicated to key participants such as Jewish holocaust victims. It is still regarded as one of British television's finest factual series.
The Naked Civil Servant broadcast.
John Hurt played flamboyant wit Quentin Crisp in this adaptation of Crisp's autobiography The Naked Civil Servant. As an openly gay man when homosexuality was illegal Crisp battled prejudice in austere postwar Britain. Hurt won a best actor Bafta for his performance.
Fury after Sex Pistols swear on live show.
The Sex Pistols became infamous overnight when they appeared live on Thames Television's early evening Today programme hosted by Bill Grundy. Goaded by the host over their appearance and attitude the band and some followers present unleashed a string of swear words. Grundy encouraged them to continue swearing. The show was only screened in London but the outbursts sparked outrage from the national press and helped the band's publicity drive.
11 October, 1978
Morecambe and Wise rejoin ITV from the BBC.
Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were among Britain's biggest entertainers when Thames Television staged the coup of persuading them to return to ITV the channel they had left for the BBC in 1968. The intervening years had seen their BBC Christmas shows gain audiences of more than 20 million. Renowned for their fastpaced banter and inspired use of celebrity guests in film parodies the duo remained on ITV until Morecambe's death in 1984.
Another franchise shakeup.
The Independent Broadcasting Authority ordered changes to ATV one of ITV's most powerful companies following criticism of its Midlands service and it was restructured and renamed Central. Two of ITV's founding companies were ejected from the network Southern Television lost its south of England licence to TVS while Westward was replaced by TSW.
TVam launches at breakfast.
The first ITV breakfast contract was won by TVam a group with David Frost among the key players. The BBC got its own Breakfast Time on air before TVam launched and hosts like Michael Parkinson could not draw big audiences. Future BBC director general Greg Dyke joined and brought in innovations like children's puppet Roland Rat. Ratings rose but TVam was outbid when franchises were auctioned in 1991. GMTV took over the slot in 1993.
Jewel in the Crown broadcast to acclaim.
A lavish adaptation of Paul Scott's Raj Quartet novels drew international acclaim for Granada. Set in the final years of the British rule in India the series centred on the rape of an English woman. Boasting a cast including Dame Peggy Ashcroft Tim PiggotSmith Charles Dance and Art Malik the series received five Bafta awards an Emmy and a Golden Globe. It averaged eight million viewers a week in the UK.
Satirical puppet show Spitting Image begins.
Britain's great and the good found themselves sent up by the puppets of Spitting Image creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law. The show pushed boundaries of taste portraying the Queen Mother as a boozy eccentric and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a Ronald Reagan groupie. Voiced by the likes of Harry Enfield and Rory Bremner the show attracted an audience of 12 million at its peak spawned foreign versions and ran until the mid1990s.
Dating show Blind Date begins.
Dating show Blind Date hosted by Cilla Black was a staple of Saturday night viewing on ITV for 18 years. Couples who met on the show were whisked away to exotic locations. Most did not gel and were delighted to tell Black why. But during the show's lifetime three couples did go on to marry. Black was the highestpaid TV presenter in the UK when she quit in 2003 following rows about changes to the format. The show did not return without her.
Government fails to ban Death on the Rock documentary.
A row broke out between ITV and the government when Thames current affairs programme This Week investigated the deaths of three IRA members on a mission on Gibraltar. Entitled Death on the Rock it presented conflicting evidence about the conduct of the British SAS soldiers who shot the IRA men amid claims it was an "execution". The Government tried unsuccessfully to stop the programme being broadcast by claiming it was an impediment to justice.
Atkinson takes bow as Mr Bean.
Having shown his verbal wit in BBC comedies like Blackadder and Not the Nine O'Clock News Rowan Atkinson moved into physical comedy with the nearsilent Mr Bean. Fourteen episodes of the hapless buffoon's antics were screened by ITV until 1995. Atkinson's creation proved an international hit when it was sold to other countries. It also commanded high sales on video and DVD and spawned a spinoff US movie and cartoon.
Acclaimed police thriller Prime Suspect is aired.
After ITV dramas Inspector Morse and The Sweeney showed a maledominated British police force writer Lynda La Plante broke new ground by writing a drama about a female head of a murder squad. Helen Mirren played Jane Tennison a tough yet dedicated cop with a troubled personal life who had to battle male prejudices. Prime Suspect won four Baftas in its first run alone. Mirren recently confirmed she would play the role for a seventh and final time.
New franchise holders take over ITV contracts.
The 1990 Broadcasting Act paved the way for the deregulation of British commercial broadcasting. For ITV this meant the old licence allocation system of quality programming ideas and financial control was replaced with a controversial system based around highestbidder auctions. When the first auction took place established companies lost out. Thames lost the London weekday contract to Carlton TVS lost southern England to Meridian and TVAM was replaced by GMTV.
16 September, 1998
Gameshow Who Wants To Be a Millionaire is launched.
The selfstyled "world's most popular gameshow" was first screened to British audiences with Chris Tarrant as the host. The concepts of "5050" and "Phone a Friend" as well as the lucrative top prize made for dramatic viewing. The highest ratings were in March 1999 when more than 19.2 million people tuned in. The show has since been exported to more than 100 countries with countries as diverse as India Japan and Kenya broadcasting their own versions.
First Pop Idol final held.
Television had screened talent shows for decades but few were as big as Pop Idol. The format soon became familiar and muchimitated thousands of hopefuls go through auditions adjudicated by industry experts. Viewers narrow down the finalists each week with the winner landing a record deal. The series which made sarcastic judge Simon Cowell a household name has spunoff internationally with American Idol and Australian Idol.
Ant and Dec given own Saturday night show.
After success with presenting Saturday morning show SMTV and music talent show Pop Idol Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly were given their own comedy show entitled Ant amp Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. An online poll of more than 500000 viewers taken for ITV's 50 Greatest Shows put Takeaway as the second greatest ever show on the channel. The duo also host celebrity jungle gameshow I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here
ITV plc is formed.
Deregulation saw ITV's distinctive regional identities eroded during the 1990s thanks to a series of takeovers among the companies and increased competition for viewers. By the turn of the century Carlton and Granada held the franchises for most of the network and they merged in 2004 to form ITV plc with Granada's Charles Allen as chief executive. Scottish Grampian and Channel remain in seperate ownership along with Northern Ireland's UTV.
ITV chief defends channel amid poor ratings.
ITV cancelled two reality shows Fat Families and The Real Good Life after registering its second worstever week in the ratings. The move came a month after Celebrity Wrestling was dropped following poor ratings and Celebrity Love Island attracted only modest audiences. ITV entertainment head Claudia Rosencrantz blamed a negative media for the shows' problems. The channel dropped karaoke show Rock Around the Block which only had an audience of 2.1 million.
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50 YEARS OF ITV
Dates with ITV
Flick through five decades of prime-time highlights
Queen attends ITV's 50 reception
Emmerdale tops ITV 50th ratings
Stars light up UK's Walk of Fame
Street named 'best ITV show'
Veteran newsreaders rejoin ITV
How ITV changed the BBC
ITV faces uncertain future
Still cheerful at 50
TV figures assess ITV output
Guide to 50 years of ITV
ITV's classic shows
ON THIS DAY
1955: BBC's TV monopoly ends
HAVE YOUR SAY
Your memories of ITV
More on broadcasting's future
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