ATV Network is one of the most fondly remembered bands of Independent Television when the network was an ensemble of regional production companies.
ATV Network Limited originally launched in 1966, part of the ATV Corporation who owned not only ATV Network but also ITC Entertainment. A subsidiary company, ATV Management Services Limited, was also set up to deal with the staff of the broadcaster, production facilities and ITC. The main ATV HQ was in Great Cumberland Place, London.
ATV Network had been formerly known as Associated Television Limited until 1964 when on-screen the broadcasting arm was re-branded as ATV London and ATV Midlands respectively. The Production Company, and parent company, renamed Associated Television Corporation Limited. ATV Midlands transmitted week-days to the West and East Midlands, while ATV London broadcast to the capital at weekends. These services fell under the TV department ‘ATV Network’.
Two years later in 1966 the Associated Television Corporation became the parent company, and ATV Network Limited was created as the broadcast and production arm for London and Midlands. Other spin-off companies were also formed in the late 1960s such as the ATV Pension Fund division (later Stoll Moss Pension Fund) and ATV Licensing Limited to deal with commercial activities.
A sister production arm, ITC Entertainment, had provided programming funded by ATV for UK and international audiences since 1955. A division of the company, ITC Distribution, promoted ATV material around the world. The main London base was the Neptune Elstree Studios in Borehamwood.
In 1968 ATV Network won the franchise to continue broadcasting to the Midland region until 1981; this new licence extended the five-day service to seven, and ATV Midlands replaced ABC Television’s weekend service. Both companies had shared the Alpha studio facilities at Aston, Birmingham, since 1956. These were based in a converted cinema. ATV London however would cease transmissions, with London Weekend Television replacing the company.
In 1965, in order to keep the Midland franchise, ATV embarked on building a purpose-built studio facility. ATV Centre opened in 1969. In 1979 the Associated Television Corporation was renamed Associated Communications Corporation [ACC]. This was mainly due to the ambition to create not just television, but also motion picture features. It was deemed a better name also due to the company having theatre interests such as the Stoll-Moss Theatre group. ATV Network had always seen the Midlands as the ‘runt’ of the empire always second to its Elstree centre. The company had long wanted to be the sole London broadcaster on ITV, and at one point offering to purchase LWT to resume broadcasts in the capital in the 1970s.
ATV Midlands Limited, a sister company, was registered in 1981 in order to bid for the 1982-1992 licence for ITV Midlands. Despite the fact ATV had launched regional news in the area and had provided a service years before the BBC, there were growing concerns that the East Midlands were not being reasonably covered in local news programming. ATV Midlands submitted plans to extend the service provided to the East of the region, and in 1981 the company was awarded the new licence.
Despite winning the contract, the regulator included additional conditions that the parent company of ATV Network and ATV Midlands, The Associated Communications Corporation, would only own 51% of the broadcaster, this was to enable ‘local businesses’ to invest in the new service.
Another stipulation was that ATV Midlands Limited would be renamed to something more befitting the broadcast region. Seemingly “Midlands” wasn’t deemed local enough. Contrary to what many believe ATV Network Limited did not change its name, nor did it cease to exist in 1982. To the casual viewer, Central was simply ATV with a new name.
In 1981 ATV Network Limited ceased as a broadcaster; however, the then-parent company, ACC, continued to have 51% of shares in the new ITV station for some time after the change on-screen. ATV Midlands Limited was re-named as Central Independent Television PLC, with the on-screen branding as simply Central. A new studio centre, originally titled in the plans as the ATV East Midland Studios, later opened in 1984 as the Central Lenton Lane Complex. The West Midland service from Central continued to be based at the ATV Centre in Birmingham, with the added Central House extension, until 1997. ATV Elstree continued to be used by Central until 1983 and in 1984 it was sold to the BBC.
ATV Network Limited was dissolved entirely into the ITC Entertainment company in 1992. A year later and PolyGram Television bought up the company archive – operating as ITC Distribution in America and as PolyGram TV in the UK.
ATV PolyGram continued to produce programming [as ITC], licence classic productions for repeats around the world and, more so, began releasing programming to the public on VHS – which was becoming increasingly popular.
In the same year, 1993, Carlton Television launched as the new company providing the ITV service for London weekdays, taking over from Thames Television who had held the licence since 1968. Carlton’s parent company had held shares in the Midland ITV broadcaster for a number of years – however, it wasn’t until after winning the ITV London franchise that Carlton Publishing launched a takeover bid for Central, which they ultimately won.
Carlton had managed what ATV boss Lew Grade had always wanted – to hold the weekday London licence. With the take-over Central was once again run from London – as ATV had been for its entire original run. Carlton re-branded the station in 1999 as ‘Carlton Central’ although on-screen only Carlton was seen. The company had also purchased Westcountry Television, it too was re-branded with the Carlton logo.
In 2000 there were several changes, which resulted in the ATV Network and ITC Entertainment archive being bought by Carlton International, this move put the ATV and ITC companies back in the same family as Central Television.
2003 saw the beginnings of ATV re-forming independently. Since 1999 the on-screen identity for ITV in London, the Midlands and West Country regions had been simply Carlton Television. The first change saw the Central brand re-established within a new national company (ITVplc), with the local name changed to ITV Central Limited. This move was part of the bigger merger between Carlton International and Granada International.
Archive wise the ATV, Central and ITC videotape collection moved over to Granada Ventures with the Central material being stored across two floors at Yorkshire Television in Leeds. The ATV and ITC motion archive was moved from Nottingham to the ITV Perivale archive near London.
ATV Network ‘none-core’ assets such as company and programme documents, photographs, production notes, studio floor plans, ATV meeting minutes, IBA information and ATV produced books – dating back to the 1950s were released from the Nottingham studios to the new ATV consortium created to care for the archive that would otherwise be destroyed. The aim was to re-launch the ATV Network Limited company as an independent from Carlton and its motion library. The Carlton studios closed in 2004. ITV Leeds staff also assisted in providing ATV information and advice on trademarks as part of the formation.
Unfortunately, ATV and other archive libraries were too late to save some ATV documents. It is noted a warehouse on the outskirts of Nottingham holding material was ‘overlooked’ and later revealed the contents of the building were destroyed.
Former ATV and Central staff, along with the current bosses of ATV Network Limited, united to revive the company and create an archive for the ATV documents which otherwise would have been possibly lost forever. In 2005, with the archive built, the company was re-launched as an independent producer of theatre, online and television. Protos Productions continue as the theatre arm.
The moving image archive is now part of the ITV Global network, which was formed in 2009 when Granada International, incorporating Carlton International, and Granada Ventures merged together.
Regional footage is cared for by MACE, however is the copyright of ITVplc.
Over the years ATV Network was involved in many of television’s biggest productions including: Jesus Of Nazareth, General Hospital [UK], Celebrity Squares, Pipkins, Crossroads, The Muppet Show, Tiswas, Edward VII and Family Fortunes. We hope to by providing information, and celebrating these shows on social media, to keep the legacy of ATV alive and well for many years to come.
The current main production logo for ATV Network Limited is a registered trademark and is based on an original logo which the company used on its cameras, transmission trucks, production vans and cars in the 1970s and early 80s. Part of the logo was also used in the 1969-1981 ATV broadcast animation for the Midlands station.
Our company logo is a homage to the famous ATV symbol that is now a ‘special archive item’ – changed to historic use with our re-launch – used by ITV and associated companies on merchandise such as DVD releases. The ATV Today TM brand was revived in 2006 also as a way of keeping the ATV name active in an online capacity while also offering a unique way of promoting classic ATV programmes occasionally.