The identified transmitter site for a service for the East of England was located at Mendlesham, a disused airfield. The plan was to use a transmitter with a selective radiation pattern, minimalising signal strength towards London whilest still managing to stretch out throughout East Anglia, and to Lincolnshire. The call for applications was made on 10 April 1958, with responses due by the end of the following month. Once again the four majors applied, along with four new consortia. Unusually three of these bids involved one organisation - the Norwich Union Insurance Society. The local programming, and strong financial position of the group headed by Lord Townshend, the Deputy Lieutenant of Norfork (including the Guardian, recently unsuccessful in the North East ) won the franchise, although they were required to accommodate elements from one of the others. For once the company name of Anglia Television was decided quickly, with no fuss.
Even before they were broadcasting in their agreed area, Anglia were looking to expand, with their sights set on the Dover transmitter. They viewed this as a defensive move, as they perceived that potentially there could be a significant overlap over areas of Suffolk from this transmitter. Indeed they protested about the plans in principle, claiming that their planning was based around the advertised area, which was now adversely affected. The ITA had recognised the overlap that the Dover transmitter would cause, not only with Anglia, but other adjacent areas served by Southern, Associated Rediffusion and ATV. However they reminded Anglia that under the 1954 Television Act there was no guarantee of exclusivity; indeed they could have offered another company a service that overlapped 100% with Anglia's if they had wanted to.
All the areas with an overlap with Dover applied, but it became a choice between Southern's and Anglia, the ITA not wanting to increase the influence of the majors. Although Anglia mustered quite a support base in Kent, it was Southern that won through in the end, probably because of their intent to base a studio in the area for opt-outs.
Anglia concluded a novel networking arrangement with Associated Rediffusion in that they were planning to produce programmes as well as receive them. No provision had been made initially by the Post Office for a circuit from Norwich to feed into the network, but the ITA placed an order for one when requested to do so. Less than one month later Anglia changed their mind, stating they couldn't afford it. The above perceived reduction in their franchise area was blamed. Ironically subsequent market research proved that they were actually reaching a greater population than then original ITA advertised estimate.
The complications of the directional aerial led to a slightly later start than had been hoped for, in particular by the company. However, this was not unexpected considering the novel nature of this system, and no one wanted a repetition of the Black Hill failure. Anglia did get what they wanted most, which was a start before Christmas 1959, as they went on the air on 27 October 1959.
The initial start up costs were paid back very quickly, and by October 1960 dividends were running at 20%. The networked plays were getting high ratings and share. They became somewhat resentful of the actions of the Network Planning Committee, which Anglia was not a part of, although their deal with Associated Rediffusion gave them eight ninety minute network slots, something others would have been very grateful to have. They banded the six regional television companies together at a meeting to thrash out some joint actions, including film purchases. This led eventually to the foundation of the British Regional Television Association.
A number of senior people left the staff of Anglia though; this was mainly because they felt that the executive directors carried out too many day-to-day functions.
In 1964 Anglia faced two opponents, but secured a new contract without any conditions and subsequently the ownership of relays to extend their coverage in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. The next round saw them unopposed.
The changeover to UHF initially extended their coverage, as Belmont became a high power transmitter, with the boundary across the Humber into East Yorkshire. This caused a problem with Yorkshire , who naturally thought it part of their patch, but who were facing problems of their own as their Bilsdale transmitter covered areas with more geographical linkage with Tyne Tees. The transmitter pattern thus had the odd effect of skewing the regions northwards. Negotiations were undertaken, and Anglia were always in a difficult position as they were effectively being asked to give up a portion of their franchise region. The grand scheme to merge the three companies was blocked by the IBA, only allowing Tyne Tees and Yorkshire to fuse. Anglia came to an arrangement with Trident Television effectively leasing them the Belmont transmitter. This was less than satisfactory for the people around the Wash in Norfolk, which suddenly found themselves with Yorkshire Television. Many in South Lincolnshire turned to ATV. This regional anomaly was not resolved until the early 1980s with the installation of three low-powered relays. The Lincolnshire issue remains however, and if anything with the start of the East Midlands sub-region under Central Television more have defected away from Yorkshire.
The 1980s were relatively uneventful, with the only other applicant in the 1981 round being seen off easily. The knight logo was pensioned off in favour of a stylised "A" made up of various odd shapes. The 1992 round was much less cosy, as they faced strong opposition from two consortia: Three East (EMAP and CLT) and CPV-TV (Virgin / David Frost / Charterhouse). Although they were possibly tempted to rely on the `special circumstances' clause their bid in the end was high, at £17.8 million, on top of the 7% levy on qualifying revenue. This was nearly £3 million more than Three East, which had crossed the quality threshold (CPV-TV had not, but their bid was even less).
The high price did not deter Anglia from going on the acquisition trail, buying most of the cartoon production house Cosgrove-Hall disposed by Thames Television. However not that long afterwards Anglia lost its own independence, being bought by MAI who owned 80% of Meridian Television. MAI subsequently merged with United Newspapers, to form United News and Media, which as well as the ITV licences owns a portion of Channel 5.
Mendlesham 11H 27/10/59-1983 Sandy Heath 6H 13/07/65-1983 Belmont 7V 20/12/65-31/12/73 UHF (Main) Tacolneston 59H 01/10/70 Sudbury 41H 18/11/70 Sandy Heath 24H 18/01/71 Belmont 25H 24/05/71-31/12/73