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In the 1960s and 1970s, an envisioned fourth UK television service was popularly referred to as ITV-2, before the launch of Channel 4 and its Welsh counterpart, Sianel Pedwar Cymru (or S4C for short).


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 composite 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 competing company was allotted a part of the country (or in the larger areas a period of the seven-day week, weekdays or weekend). This arrangement was not seen as ideal and the Independent Television Authority (ITA) along with the franchisees continually pushed the government for capacity to license a second set of franchises.[1]

When transmissions began on 625-line ultra high frequency (UHF) in the early 1960s, the General Post Office (GPO) 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 BBC-1) and Independent Television (ITV) services already carried on 405-line very high frequency (VHF), one for the new BBC-2 (20 April 1964) and a fourth for future allocations. By 1968, the ITA considered this sufficiently likely that when awarding franchises for the next ten-year period they included a clause that allowed the licence to be revoked and reconsidered if 'ITV-2' became a reality.

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 coming to power in 1970, instead concentrating on Independent Local Radio (ILR). Moves began to be made towards the end of the 1970s on the form such a fourth television service would take. By then, both major political parties roughly agreed that this new service ought to have some public service element to it and provide content to minority groups not necessarily catered for by the BBC or ITV proper.

The resultant service, Channel 4 (for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), and a variant for Wales, S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru in Welsh, Channel Four Wales in English), began in November 1982. It could be said that this service was the long-awaited 'ITV-2' in all but name, as it was operated and regulated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), was funded by the rest of ITV and (then) had a substantial amount of content produced by the major ITV companies.

Name Nation Service date
S4C Wales 1 November 1982
Channel 4 England 2 November 1982
Northern Ireland
Isle of Man
Channel Islands

The term 'ITV-2' became popular as the term 'ITV' itself grew in popularity for the commercial network which had previously been referred to by generic titles 'Independent Television' or 'Commercial Television'. In anticipation of the second network, it was common for television sets manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s to having the four channel buttons labelled BBC-1, BBC-2, ITV-1 and ITV-2.

It was not until 16 years after the launch of Channel 4 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.