History Channel

Channel History

I am no Bolshie, but I have not heard a single soul speak in favour of this TV mast. The people don't want it.
Alderney State member

The approach is made

It is unlikely that the Channel Islands featured originally as a franchise area in the minds of the ITA, since there were only a total of about 25,000 homes that could be served. The BBC served them (and still does) as an outpost of the South West region, and the ITA would have probably made the same arrangement, if they had not been approached by a local group who were confident they could set up their own station and make some programmes for themselves.

Early hurdles

Two initial difficulties had to be overcome; the first was the legal one that the 1954 Television Act didn't apply in the Channel Islands, and the legislation had to be extended by Orders in Council. The other was countering fears from France that no interference would arise to their television reception.

Applications Invited

The invitations for bids went out in early 1960, and received two replies. The first was led by a Jersey schoolteacher Jurat G Malet de Cartaret, and boasted 181 shareholders; the second by Senator George Troy, who had campaigned for a long time for a local radio station, and was backed by the local newspapers. The second group won the contract mainly because they were financially more secure and had more limited ambition for local programming.

Transmitter problems

The principle of the delivery of the network was simple; the output of Stockland Hill would be picked up off-air on Aldernay and relayed to Jersey where unless they were opting out it would be retransmitted. There were problems with this setup; transmissions from Jersey had to be on Channel 9, the same as Stockland Hill, so the power had to be limited and the opposite polarisation used so as not to interfere with the mainland signal reception in Alderney, with the side effect that Alderney could not be served. Additonally there were times when the reception fell below standard, which would mean that locally generated programmes would need to be provided to replace the network feed. The General Manager of Channel Television, Ken Killip (seconded from ABC) persuaded the ITA that a second feed could be provided from reception of Chillerton Down as well as Stockland Hill. This would give them the choice between the programmes carried by Westward and Southern.

The sites for the reception and transmission masts were identified, the former at Les Rodiers, Alderney, and the latter at Fremont Point. Both choices led to local opposition, and the Alderney States originally denied a lease, at least partially because Alderney were not going to get decent reception from Jersey. The transmission mast was second hand from Lichfield, and there was a delay before it became redundant there. Nevertheless, the ITA planning date of 1 September 1962 was maintained.

A Slow Start

Most of the members of the ITA made a visit to Jersey for the opening ceremony, which took place at 17:00 on Saturday 1 September 1962 (the next day they were treated to a picnic on Herm). This was conducted by the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey. Ten minutes later they had joined the network for Robin Hood, but the evening did include a local music programme, and an introduction to the station. Other local programmes started in the first week included a nightly news in French, a magazine twice a week, and a weekly farming programme.

Early audience figures remained low and they only achieved about a two-fifths share of the audience at the end of their first year. These figures did improve in early 1963 after a tweak to the transmitter to improve coverage, and increased promotion. The local population appeared to have very different tastes from mainland Britain, with the soaps hardly featuring, but the local shoestring programmes gaining large audience shares, and by their first anniversary the overall share reached 60%.

Financial Wobbles

Despite the significant local involvement the station continued to operate in deficit. After two years the accumulated loss had reached 70,000, which seemed difficult to recover from the revenue level, bolstered as it was from increasing advertising and circulation of 'The Channel Viewer' listing magazine. Negotiations yielded a much lower transmitter rental and network programme supply cost.

Through the franchise hoops

Despite the losses incurred by Channel they were not opposed in the 1964 round, but like everyone else there franchise was renewed, with the transmitter fees confirmed at the lower rental. No one tried against them in 1967.

Late colour

Introduction of a colour service for the Channel Islands was delayed much longer than for any other ITV region. There were two main reasons; the difficulty of getting a good signal over to Alderney for rebroadcast, and the need for the forever cash-strapped Channel Television to upgrade their own facilities. Additionally the UHF service from Fremont Point would only cover Jersey, so there was need to secure a further transmitter site for Guernsey. Alderney too finally gained a service from its own relay. The off-air method originally employed used a bank of 24 32-element Yagi aerials to receive the mainland transmissions, but this was replaced by a special adaptive aerial which picked up a dedicated signal, albeit still 'dirty'.

Up to date

Channel, now more usually referred to as CTV has continued to maintain its strong local presence, although it is no longer the only media, having competition from both BBC and independent radio stations. The finances remain somewhat marginal, although they are supported by other businesses in the group, such as CR, which is the islands' main TV and video retailer. Their bid in the last franchise round was the minimum possible (1000), and they retained the franchise because their only opponent, CI3 (headed by Bergerac actor John Nettles), failed to pass the quality threshold.

Transmitters

VHF

Fremont Point 9H 1/9/62

UHF (main)

Fremont Point 41H 24/7/76
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