26th November 1953. What Happened to Regional Television?


A Government White Paper in the early 1950s recommending the ‘introduction of an element of competition in television broadcasting’, revealed opponents including Lord Hailsham forecasting a ‘decline in Reithian values with a concomitant emphasis on prurience, violence and the trivialising of current affairs’.(1)



However The Independent Television Authority (ITA), the regulating authority, for the new commercial channel, proclaimed a mission to ensure ‘good-taste’ and nothing of a ‘vulgar’ nature in output.

It was Today in 1953 when The House of  Lords voted in support of the Tory proposals to establish Commercial Television, resulting in The Television Act 1954.(2)

The next year impresario Lew Grade’s ATV opened with comedian Bob Monkhouse‘s quip,‘Hello Traitors’, soon followed by the first advert: for toothpaste.


Early ‘liberated’ audiences were now entitled to view ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ though Tommy Trinder, ‘you lucky people’ upset Grade, was sacked and replaced by Bruce Forsyth with his merry: ‘I’m in Charge’.

Prizes were on offer in such programmes as ‘Take Your Pick’ with Michael Miles, and ‘Opportunity Knocks’ with Hughie Green. All the BBC could offer was Radio’s Wilfred Pickles’ ‘Have a Go’ with its ‘Give him the money Barney’: usually a few shillings.

Many were the regional companies supposedly catering for a local audience in the early days (see logos).

Then came the Thatcherite reform of the  1990 Broadcasting Act which changed the entire British broadcasting structure which she saw as the last bastion of restrictive practice.(3)

It saw the abolition of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) which in 1991 became the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and Radio Authority eventually to become Ofcom.(4)

This was said to be regulation with a lighter touch, which in other words, as happened with the banks resulted in disaster.

However the Act allowed companies holding franchises to merge with one another, regional companies disappeared, so by 2004 the main commercial sector charges with producing and broadcasting in England Wales was controlled by a monopolistic ITV. What happened to restrictive practice?

The 1950s with the advent of commercial television proved TV was here to stay, but it was to cause the demise of many cinemas and variety theatres, as Empires and Theatre Royals closed to become bingo halls.

(1) Lord Reith was the austere, Presbyterian, Scotsman who controlled the BBC pre-war with a rod of iron.

(2) The Bill had its Royal Assent 30.7.1954  and Commercial TV came on screen on 22nd September, 1955.

(3) The 1990 Broadcasting Act replaced and consolidated the 1981 Independent Broadcasting Acts 1973, 1974,1978 and 1980 Legislation.

1981 IBA founded 1972 gave power to provide a second station which became Channel 4 in 1982. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission and matters relating to a national emergency were included in the Act.

(4) ITC started regulating’ non-terrestrial channels’. IBA had only concerned itself with ITV and Channel 4 and the ill-fated British Satellite Broadcasting.

ITC took over the Cable Authority which had regulated non-terrestrial Channels (where there was little audience) under the 1984 Cable and Broadcasting Act.

Ref: Wikipedia.org/Commercial TV/Pics of Logos.

Ref: Wikipedia.org/broadcasting_act_1990.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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