Associated TeleVision

Associated TeleVision

Infobox ITV franchisee
name = Associated TeleVision

based = Elstree, London, Birmingham
area = London (weekends; 1955-1968)
Midlands (weekdays; 1956-1968)
Midlands (all week; 1968-1981)
owner = Associated Communications Corporation
airdate = 24 September 1955 in London
17 February 1956 in the Midlands
All week in the Midlands from 29 July 1968
captionb =
closeddate = 31 December 1981
replaced = ABC in the Midlands on weekends from 1968
replacedby = London Weekend Television in London on weekends from 1968
Central Independent Television in the Midlands from 1982
website =

Associated TeleVision Limited, best known simply as ATV, was a British ITV company from 1955 until 1981.


The company was formed from the merger of the Associated Broadcasting Development Company (known as ABDC and under the control of Norman Collins) and the Incorporated Television Programme Company (known as ITC and under the control of Prince Littler and Lew Grade).

Both companies had applied for a contract to become one of the new ITV stations. ABDC won the contract but had insufficient money to operate it; ITC failed to win a contract, mainly due to the stranglehold this would give the Grades and Stoll-Moss theatres over talent in the UK. The merger provided the money required but put Littler and Grade in real control of the new company, effectively sidelining Collins.

The new company was originally known as the "Associated Broadcasting Company" (and therefore "ABC"), but Associated British Corporation's parent company, who wished to call their station "ABC" and also ran a large chain of cinemas under those initials, successfully sued for prior ownership. The name change took place after ABC had been operating for three weeks; the new name chosen was Associated TeleVision Ltd, producing the initials ATV. The company's logo, originally designed for ABC and tweaked for the newly renamed ATV was a "shadowed eye", which was inspired by the CBS logo and reputedly designed by Lew Grade on a transatlantic flight back from the US. The logo is one of the most recognisable in broadcasting.

ATV Music

As a side note to ATV's television activities, the company also set up a music publishing division. This was known as ATV Music and existed initially to publish TV-related music, such as theme tunes, composed by its in-house composers. This company was eventually split away from the parent company and went through numerous different owners as well as buying into other established music publishers including Northern Songs, which was The Beatles publishing company. ATV Music eventually settled into the hands of Michael Jackson before being merged into Sony/ATV Music Publishing.


ATV (as ABC at first) began broadcasting in its own right on Saturday 24 September 1955 (after jointly presenting the network's opening night on Thursday 22 September). The name ATV was first seen in London on Saturday 8 October 1955. The company had won two ITV contracts, the Saturday and Sunday contract for London and the Monday–Friday contract for the Midlands. The latter service opened on 17 February 1956, with, ironically, ABC providing the weekend programmes.

The new company ran into further financial difficulty due to the staggering losses of the first two years of ITV and the start-up costs. The London weekday contractor Associated-Rediffusion shouldered some of ATV's losses and further funding was achieved by selling shares in the company, mainly to the "Daily Mirror" newspaper. The company structure was changed several times until 1966, when ATV and ITC both became subsidiaries of the Associated Communications Corporation (ACC), formed by turning the old structure on its head. This marked the point where Lew Grade advanced from being the greatest influence over the company to taking actual control.

ATV's main impact on the early ITV service was (not surprisingly, given its ancestry) in the field of variety and light entertainment.

In the major contract and region changes in 1968, ATV lost the weekend franchise in London to the new London Weekend Television, but its Midlands contract was renewed for the full seven days instead. The weekday/weekend "split-service" ended in the North and Midlands with the 1968 franchise round, continuing only in the London area.

In 1969, in readiness for colour broadcasting in the UK, a large new 'state of the art' television studio was built off Broad Street, near the centre of Birmingham. Constructed alongside a 100 metre high tower block, Alpha Tower, it was to replace the former Alpha Studios in Aston. The complex was named 'The Paradise Centre' and although finally closed in 1997, two of the production studios had been 'mothballed' in the early 1990s as demand for productions studios fell. Central had proposed in their franchise application of 1991 that they would build a new 'West Midlands television Centre'. This was to have comprised a 4,000 sq ft studio together with a second one dedicated to news and regional programming. Originally planned for construction during 1993, the final plans were amended and a smaller facility build at Central Court. Once complete Central or Carlton as they were by then moved to the new facility thus vacting the Central House (ATV Centre). The former ATV Centre is currently in the process of being demolished to be replaced by the Arena Central development. The Alpha Tower will survive as it is a listed building.

End of franchise

In 1981 the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) decided that ATV's lack of regional programming and production (it had a major studio centre at Elstree in Hertfordshire, well outside its Midlands franchise) was hampering the region, so it insisted that the new applicant for the franchise be more clearly based in the region and have separate facilities for East and West Midlands.

ATV Midlands Limited, a shell company created by ACC solely for the franchise process, applied successfully for the contract. As a condition of its award, ACC was forced to divest itself of 49% of the company, relinquish executive roles, sell its studios in Elstree and rename the company to demonstrate that it was effectively a new business.

After a weather report on New Year's Eve 1981, they said "ATV" for the final time and on 1 January 1982 it was renamed Central Independent Television.

The new company name was registered as Central Independent Television plc and the new logo, advertised as being a UFO, appeared on 1 January 1982. Central inherited the studios at ATV Centre, Birmingham and ATV Elstree along with land that ATV Midlands had purchased for their new Nottingham studio centre. The new company also maintained control of ATV's news archive and regional programmes, plus programming already in production or being shown at the time of changeover; the rest of the ATV archive was sold on by ACC.

The new contract stipulated an immediate start for separate East and West Midlands facilities. Planning issues delayed construction at the Nottingham site so Central purchased an independent production studio in the city (at Giltbrook) to act as its East Midlands newsroom. Industrial action prevented this centre from being used however, with the new studios ready by the time it was resolved.

In 1983 the Elstree centre was sold to the BBC for an undisclosed sum. In 1984 the "East Midlands Television Centre" in Lenton Lane, Nottingham was opened by the then Prime Minister, the Rt.Hon Margaret Thatcher, MP.

ACC later divested itself of the remainder of Central after the Australian investor Robert Holmes à Court staged a boardroom coup and forced Lew Grade to cede control.

ACC remained in control of ITC and Stoll-Moss Theatres until ITC was sold to Polygram International Television—coincidentally bringing Lew Grade back into control of ITC until his death in 1998. Stoll-Moss Theatres, the last remaining part of ACC, was sold to the Really Useful Group in 2001.

Carlton Communications had spent much of the 1980s and 1990s buying up the intellectual property of the former ACC, including the rights to the ATV logo and company name, the ATV news archive (via its purchase of Central) and finally both the ATV and ITC archives, before itself being swallowed-up by Granada.

Recent changes have seen Granada Ventures take over Carlton, and all of ATV's national archive programming has been taken into their ownership. The regional news archive from ATV and Central, plus some regional programmes, are now stored at the Media Archive for Central England in Nottingham. This archive is located at Nottingham University, which by co-incidence now own the former Central Studios in the City where the archive is kept.

ATV Network Limited was 'dissolved' as a company in 1992; however, just like Rediffusion, it made a strange comeback many years later. Just as Victor Lewis-Smith bought the rights and logo to Rediffusion many years ago, so too in 2006 "ATV Network Limited" was revived as a company brand independent of Granada and its previous archive.

The "new" ATV are based in theatre production (Protos Theatre and Arts Group) and have no involvement with television. The company is only in operation for copyright and legal reasons concerning the theatre group.

The original ATV logos and branding remain registered trademarks of a minor subsidiary of ITV plc.

Names used

Company names:
*Associated Broadcasting Company Limited (1954–1955)
*Associated TeleVision Limited (1955–1964)
*Associated TeleVision Corporation (1964–1966)
*Associated Communications Corporation (1966–1982)—parent company
*ATV Network Limited (1966–1982)
*ATV Midlands Limited (1981) - This is the company that was renamed to Central Independent Television from 1 January 1982, and still exists as the licence holder for the ITV Midlands region.

On-air names:
*Associated Broadcasting Company (22 September 1955–October 1955)
*Associated TeleVision (1955–1966)
*ATV London (1964–1968)
*ATV Midlands (1964–1969 but referred to in continuity until 1982)
*ATV Network (1966–1982) (always branded on-air as simply 'ATV')

Initials used:
*ABC (22 September 1955–October 1955)
*ATV (1955–1968)

Popular programmes

*"Crossroads" Subsequently made by Central
*"Sapphire & Steel"
*"Tiswas" Subsequently made by Central until ending in mid-1982
*"The Muppet Show"
*"Emergency Ward 10"
*"Carry On Laughing"
*"General Hospital"
*"The Prisoner"
*"Two Of A Kind (1961)"
*"Saturday Variety"
*"The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine"
*"Honey Lane"
*"The Golden Shot"
*"ATV Today"
*"Lunchbox with Noele Gordon"
*"New Faces" Subsequently made by Central
*"Sunday Night at the London Palladium"
*"Family Fortunes" (1980-1981) Subsequently made by Central
*"Bullseye" The 1st series (1981) Subsequently made by CentralThe majority of were first broadcast on ATV and distributed in the UK by them. Similarly, ATV's productions were distributed by ITC outside of the UK, with most ATV idents replaced with those for ITC.

ATV zoom 2

In use from the launch of transmissions in colour on ITV from 15 November 1969 until 31 December 1981, zoom 2 was the internal name of a short 10-second animated film which preceded all ATV-produced programmes broadcast on the ITV network, and presentations of purchased material within the region. So-called 'station identities' (idents) would inform ITV viewers in the United Kingdom of the originating local ITV company that had produced, and was ultimately broadcasting across the network, the following programme; the ATV ident therefore indicated when a programme made by ATV was about to begin. Various ATV idents were used over the lifetime of the company, but the 'zoom 2' is the best remembered. The music was composed by Wally Stott, a prolific TV composer, whose work included the "Hancock's Half Hour" theme.


Birmingham versionsWhen the film was put through an older colour telecine machine, one in which the colorimetry was working incorrectly, a blue background version aired. This frontcap was often seen with a blue background when it preceded programmes from the Birmingham studios of ATV. "Crossroads" & "Tiswas" are some examples of this. The Birmingham studios were equipped with older telecine machines because they were not ATV's main production centre (which was in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, very close to the Elstree Film Studios).

But, in the early days of colour ATV, there were two different versions of the animation itself. One was used for the Borehamwood studios (which is the version explained below) and one with a different sounding fanfare for the programmes coming out of Birmingham (the only ATV Birmingham programme being seen in other ITV regions at this time was "Crossroads".) The use of two different versions of the jingle was abandoned after the ITV technicians' strike of 1970-1971. During this period, ITV did not stop broadcasting, but the programmes made in this period by all ITV companies were made using the colour cameras with only black-and-white camera tubes inserted in them. After the colour strike ended, both the ATV studios adopted the Borehamwood version of "zoom 2".

Borehamwood VersionThere were two versions of the Borehamwood zoom 2 animation itself. These are not clearly visible but when the ATV logo forms up, you can see the differences. The first one was used by ATV from the start of colour transmissions in 1969 up until the ITV strike of 1979. As stated earlier, this was used for Borehamwood programmes only at first & was then adopted by the Birmingham studios in 1971. This had vertical lines going all the way through the ATV logo as it formed up from the white dot.

The second version was used from the resumption of services in 1979 up until the company's demise in 1981. The reason for the replacement of the original is unknown, although it may have been that the colour quality of the original had started to deteriorate because it had been overused in the telecine machines (ATV made a lot of programmes for ITV during the 1970s). This version had lines similar to those described in the previous paragraph except that they only went in the shape of the ATV logo.

Transition to Central

When ATV became and renamed Central on 1st January 1982, they would use a "Central Presents" caption before the usual ATV frontcap on programmes produced before the change. Although this practice ended around December 1982 on first-run programmes (live programmes used the "Central" frontcap), schools programming continued to start like this until sometime in 1984 as most schools programmes by this time had been firmly established as repeats.

External links

* [ sub-TV (unofficial history site)]
* [ (unofficial tribute site)]
* [ Independent TeleWeb ATV history page]
* [ Associated TeleVision at TV Ark]

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