22nd SEPTEMBER 1955 BIRTH OF ITV
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Tuesday 22nd September 2020
22 September 1955 – The birth of ITV
Almost 20 years after the launch of BBC television – the world’s first public television service – the Beeb was served up with a competitor: “Independent Television”, or ITV as we would eventually know it.
For the first year, only viewers in London could watch it. The service was provided by Associated Rediffusion, with a separate company, ITN, providing the news.
The other franchises launched within a year of the London launch, and other contracts were awarded by the ITA between 1956 and 1961. All the franchises launched by September 1962.
The next areas was the Midlands and in this order:
Franchise awarded Launch date Regional area
26 October 1954 17 February 1956 Midlands (weekday)
21 September 1955 18 February 1956 Midlands (weekend)
26 October 1954 3 May 1956 North of England (weekday)
21 September 1955 5 May 1956 North of England (weekend)
On the evening of 22nd September 1955, prior to the start of regular programmes, a trailer had been shown to give viewers an idea of what the new service would be like.
The launch night began with a grand opening ceremony at London’s Guildhall, and an announcement that today sounds both parochial and overly formal.
As the camera showed aerial shots of the capital, the presenter announced: “Zero hour is on us. Here, high above the heart of old London, we salute you.
“Ready, the OB vans at Guildhall!
“Ready, the vision mixer, sound mixers, cameramen, directors!
“Ready, all those who’ve made this possible!
“Ready, our friends, you citizens of London! Wish us godspeed. Over to Guildhall. Good luck, all! Here we go!”
Then – lucky people! – there was a chance to hear speeches from the Lord Mayor and the Postmaster General, and a rendition of the National Anthem.
The BBC’s monopoly on British television came to an end on this day in 1955 when its new independent rival began broadcasting – and Britons saw TV adverts for the first time.
Britain’s move into commercial television came with the Television Act of 1954, which created the Independent Television Authority and put six Independent Television Network franchises out to tender.
The first of these to broadcast was Associated-Rediffusion, which had won the London weekday franchise – and it kicked off proceedings on the evening of September 22, 1955.
The launch night began at 7.15pm, with a four-minute trailer announcing “Commercial television is here!” and promising “variety, drama, features, sport, pageantry, children’s programmes, women’s programmes” and “personalities”.
The channel then broadcast a five-minute opening film about London and the history of British broadcasting, announcing grandly: “It is our desire and hope… that in the years to come, we may preserve one of the proudest boasts of England: the rights of free speech, fair play, our own particular brand of decency and tolerance, our own particular brand of humour and common sense.”
After wishing the “citizens of London godspeed” and “good luck, all!” to its team, ITV then moved to a live broadcast from London’s Guildhall, where a gala dinner was being held to celebrate the start of independent television and where speakers included the Postmaster General and the Lord Mayor.
The rest of ITV’s schedule that night included an hour of drama excerpts starring Sir John Gielgud and Alec Guinness, a variety show featuring entertainers such as Hughie Green and Harry Secombe, a boxing match, and news broadcasts. A five-minute religious programme called Epilogue brought the night to a close at 11pm.
What everyone was really interested in seeing, however, were the adverts. ITV featured 23 in all – promoting everything from Cadbury’s chocolate to Esso petrol – and the very first one went out at 8.12pm Thursday 22ndSeptember 1955 . It was a minute-long commercial for Gibbs SR toothpaste: “the tingling fresh toothpaste that does your gums good, too”.
The toothpaste commercial’s place in British TV history was somewhat random – it had won a lottery against 23 other advertisements to be shown first that night. The response to this innovation was anything but universal praise: with Labour MP John Wilmot warning the Commons that “the nightly poison of advertising which boosts the sale of goods to the working class is against the national interest”.
On that first night of telecasts, the BBC, who had held the monopoly on broadcasting in Britain, aired a melodramatic episode of their popular radio soap opera The Archers on the BBC Home Service (later became BBC Radio 4 in 1967). In the episode, core character Grace Archer was fatally injured in a fire, and it was seen as a ploy to keep loyal viewers and listeners away from the new station.
The episode pulled in an audience of 20 million, but the BBC denied that the plot development was deliberately timed.
The first full day of ITV transmissions was 23 September 1955 when Britain’s first female newsreader Barbara Mandell appeared. The London weekend contractor ATV launched two days later on Saturday 25th September 1955.
In the autumn of 1955, when ITV opened for business, the advertising rate-card price of a 60-second peaktime spot was just under £1000. Pioneering brands such as Gibbs SR toothpaste did have to pay a 50% premium to take part in the opening night of 22 September, but even that did not seem such a bad price for the chance to be involved in the birth of a media revolution.
Once the euphoria of the opening night wore off, it became clear that the channel faced a challenge to win the hearts and minds of the British public – and the advertisers that were being asked to fund its existence.
Jeremy Bullmore, former chairman of JWT and a current member of the WPP advisory board, began work at JWT just a few months before ITV launched.
‘Agencies such as ours were enthusiastic about the medium as they had experience of the US TV system to draw on,’ he recalls. ‘There were many people in the UK who said it would never work. There was a serious snobbery about allowing advertising into the drawing room.’
Such mistrust was not the only challenge, according to Ron Miller, a former LWT sales chief who walked into Television House looking for a job in 1956. He found a sales force that ‘didn’t have a clue how the business worked, because they were all from newspapers’.
This lack of experience proved a major setback in the network’s early years, as ITV was building its audience from a low base. Initially available only within London via Associated-Rediffusion (weekdays) and ATV (weekends), it promised clients 250,000 viewers on day one, but delivered just 170,000.
‘That set the tone for the next few years,’ recalls Miller. ‘Clients effectively wrote the rate-card and TV contractors lost millions of pounds.
Associated Newspapers (part of the Associated-Rediffusion franchise) pulled out of ITV in 1956 and didn’t return to TV until the 60s as part of Southern Television.’
Despite the financial struggle, there were soon signs that ITV was bedding in. By late 1956, regional franchise holders ATV, ABC and Granada had opened for business in the Midlands and North-West, taking ITV’s reach to 2m. With South Wales and the West of England coming on-stream soon after, ITV could boast 5m sets by 1958.
THE FOLLOWING PAGES FROM THE TV TIMES SHOW LISTINGS FOR THE OPENING DAY OF ITV AND THE FIRST FULL DAY’S TRANSMISSION
MOST POPULAR TV PROGRAMMES OF 1955
- Sunday Palladium (ITV)
- Theatre Royal (ITV)
- I Love Lucy (ITV)
- Dragnet (ITV)
- Take Your Pick (ITV)
- Robin Hood (ITV)
- Figure Skaiting (ITV)
- People Are Funny (ITV)
- Saturday Showtime (ITV)
- Stage One (ITV)
- Double Your Money (ITV)
- Gun Law (ITV)
- Love and Kisses(ITV)
- Highland Fling (BBC)
- Boxing (BBC)
- Movie Magazine (ITV)
- Jack Jackson Show(ITV)
- TV Playhouse (ITV)
- Fairbanks Presents (ITV)
- Gerry’s Inn (ITV)
TV TIMES was also launched in London on 22 September 1955, at the start of transmissions of the first ITV station, Associated-Rediffusion. Initially, the magazine was published only in the London area, carrying listings for Associated-Rediffusion (Rediffusion, London from 1964) on weekdays and ATV London at weekends, while the other ITV regions were served by their own listings magazines. TV Times became a national magazine on 21 September 1968.
TV Times carried listings for ITV only and Radio Times for BBC programmes only until 1 March 1991, when TV Times published BBC One and BBC Two programme listings for the first time. And Radio Times published ITV listings.
AND IN ADDITION
1991: Bryan Adams made pop history when his record Everything I Do, I Do It For You, stayed at number one for a 12th week.
Today is the Autumn Equinox: Autumn 2020 in Northern Hemisphere will begin on Tuesday, 22 September and ends on Monday, 21 December
The meteorological definition is the simpler of the two. It splits the year into four seasons of three full months each based on the Gregorian calendar, which makes it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics.
So, every year, autumn lasts from 1 September until 30 November, with winter then kicking off at the beginning of December.
DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH EVERYDAY
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
“Its unfortunate and I really wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They’re kinder.”
— Emma Thompson
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
What does it mean if you were born in September?
That your parents started the new year with a bang!
Love is…what builds a happy family.
WHAT IS THERE A SEASON FOR TODAY TURN, TURN, TURN …
A time to watch ITV…A time to watch BBC TV
SOMETHING TO BE POSITIVE ABOUT & GRATEFUL FOR IN THE WORLD
You can always find someone to love.
SOMETHING TO LAUGH ABOUT
GILES CARTOON ANNUAL
Collections of Giles’s cartoons have been produced annually since 1946
He produced daily satirical cartoons in the Daily Express from August 5, 1945
VIZ MAGAZINE TOP TIPS
McDONALD’S: Make your brown carrier bags green so they blend in with the countryside after they’ve been thrown out of car windows.
TOTAL STAIRWAY TO EVEREST CLIMB CHALLENGE
Monday 21/9/2020 DAY 173 18 Times – 162 Feet Cumulative Total 25,812 Feet
HORRIBLE LITTLE NUMBERS
Country Confirmed cases Deaths
1 US 6,857,967 199,884
2 Brazil 4,558,040 137,272
3 India 5,562,663 88,935
4 Mexico 700,580 73,697
5 UK 401,122 41,877
6 Italy 299,506 35,724
7 Peru 768,895 31,369
8 France 475,758 31,182
9 Spain 671,468 30,663
10 Iran 425,481 24,478
UK deaths yesterday 11
Global cases Updated 22 Sep at 08:38 local
Confirmed 31,328,238 +296,193
Deaths 964,839 +4,110
Recovered 21,503,496 +247,779
©2020 Phil M Robinson