Independent Television was set up in in 1955 as a self-financing alternative to the BBC’s television service, which is funded by the television licence fee. Today ITV consists of sixteen companies in a nationwide network.
Fifteen are responsible for providing programmes in particular regions. The sixteenth, Independent Television News (ITN), supplies news programmes for viewers in all the regions.
Because the ITV network operates federally the companies benefit from national unity while retaining a substantial measure of regional autonomy. The companies agree to show some programmes simultaneously across the network, and these provide the basis of ITV programme schedules. But the system still leaves plenty of room for each company to serve its region’s individual needs through local programmes made expressly for local audiences.
Like all ITV companies, Thames operates under the eye of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, set up by Parliament to administer independent television and radio. The IBA owns and operates all the ITV transmitters, and is responsible for the overall standard of programmes, as well as the acceptability of the advertisements that accompany them.
The IBA is also responsible for the recently established Channel 4, which operates as a television service quite separately from ITV and commissions its programmes from a wide range of sources, including Thames. However, its programme policy is entirely its own. Like all other ITV companies, Thames is responsible for Channel 4 airtime sales in its own area, and pays a subscription towards the Channel’s programme costs and upkeep.
Another new service that the IBA will oversee is breakfast television, which will bring regular early morning programmes to ITV viewers. The contract to provide the service was awarded to the TV AM company and transmissions are expected to begin during 1983.