Fourth UK television service

In the 1960s and 1970s, an envisioned fourth UK television service was popularly referred to as ITV2, before the launch of Channel 4 (and its Welsh counterpart, S4C) in November 1982.



Plans for independent television to consist of two or more channels in a given area were first discussed during its inception, where ways of allowing the component companies to compete directly with one another were considered. When the first broadcasts went on the air on 22 September 1955, there was not enough frequency space allocated for television, leading to the approach whereby each company was allotted a part of the country (or in the larger areas a period of the seven-day week, weekdays or weekend):

Channel Regional area
BBC Television Service
Independent Television

This arrangement was not seen as ideal and the Independent Television Authority along with the regional companies continually pushed the government for capacity to license a second set of franchises.[1]


When transmissions began on 625-line ultra high frequency in the early 1960s, the General Post Office were afforded the task of allocating each transmitter region with a set of frequencies that would provide maximum coverage and minimal interference; this provided capacity for four services, allowing one each for the existing BBC (later became BBC1) and ITV services already carried on 405-line very high frequency, one for the new BBC2 (from 20 April 1964) and a fourth for future allocations. By 1968, the ITA considered this sufficiently likely that the new franchises awarded for the next ten-year period they included a clause that allowed the licence to be revoked and reconsidered if "ITV2" became a reality.

The term "ITV2" became popular as the term "ITV" itself grew in popularity for the commercial network which had previously been referred to as "Independent Television" or "Commercial Television". In anticipation of the second network, it was common for television sets with push-button controls manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s to have the four channel buttons labelled BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 and ITV2.

The issue was a sensitive political point: the Labour Party of the 1950s and 1960s had traditionally been against commercial television and many on the left of the party wanted to see all commercial television abolished, advocating instead for an expansion of BBC Television (which was not acted upon, most likely due to cost). The following Conservative government, and advocates of commercial broadcasting were also slow to act in implementing a new network after Edward Heath's victory in the general election on 18 June 1970, instead concentrating on Independent Local Radio when the Sound Broadcasting Act received royal assent on 12 July 1972 and the Independent Television Authority accordingly changed its name to the Independent Broadcasting Authority on the same day.

On 3 February 1977, the Annan Committee on the Future of Broadcasting made its recommendations, including the establishment of a fourth independent television channel, the establishment of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and an increase in independent production.[2] With the approach of the 1979 general election (on 3 May), both the Conservatives and Labour included plans for a fourth channel in their election manifestos. Labour favoured an Open Broadcasting Authority community service aimed at minority groups, while the Conservatives' plan was for the channel to be given to ITV.[3] Both main parties also pledged to launch a separate Welsh language television service for Wales,[4] and suggested except for an occasional opt-out, the service should be the same as that offered in the rest of the United Kingdom. This led to acts of civil disobedience, including refusals to pay the television licence fee and sit-ins in BBC and HTV studios and some attacks on various television transmitters for the Welsh-speaking areas.

On 17 September 1980, the government reversed its position on a separate Welsh language service for Wales as following opposition from the public and Welsh politicians, including a threat from the former president of Plaid Cymru, Gwynfor Evans to go on hunger strike and the idea was given the green light.[5] This led to the establishment of the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority.


The resultant service, Channel 4, and a variant for Wales, S4C, began in November 1982. It could be said that this service was long-awaited "ITV2" in all but name, as it was operated and regulated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (which later became the Independent Television Commission in 1991). It was funded by ITV and (then) had a substantial amount of content produced by the major companies until the end of 1992:

Name Nation Advertising managed by ITV regional companies Service date
S4C Wales HTV Cymru Wales (with Welsh language advertisements) 1 November 1982
Channel 4 England (with Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) 2 November 1982
Northern Ireland UTV (Ulster Television)

On 1 January 1993, Channel 4 became an independent statutory corporation and under the terms of the Broadcasting Act 1990 was now also allowed to sell its own airtime. Under the Act, ITV agreed to fund Channel 4 if total advertising revenue fell below 14%. The channel also made a payment of £38 million to ITV under terms of its funding formula.[6]

It was not until 16 years after the launch of Channel 4 (and S4C) that the name "ITV2" was used for a new digital channel on 7 December 1998.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Yes, it's no". Russ J Graham, Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. 1 January 2002. Archived from the original on 2007-01-24. Retrieved 2006-06-07.
  2. ^ Annan Committee (1977). Report of the Committee on the Future of Broadcasting. HMSO.
  3. ^ Hastings, David (18 November 2007). "Launch of a Revolution – C4/S4C". Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  4. ^ Hancock, Dafydd. "A channel for Wales". EMC Seefour. Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009.
  5. ^ "Gwynfor Evans at 90". BBC News Online. 1 September 2002.
  6. ^ "Channel 4's 25 year Anniversary" (PDF). Channel 4. 2007. Retrieved 26 January 2019.