History Scottish Television - History

Scottish Television - History

A licence to print money
(Roy Thomson)

Getting the Money

There was a gap of over a year before ITV would extend out of the London, Midlands and the North of England. Applicants needed to demonstrate financial backing of 400,000, and this was none to easy to raise with the performance of the existing contractors. The Canadian newspaper magnate Roy Thomson approached a number of Scottish organisations to join in with his bid, but could only attract outside money of 80,000, with the smallest investor, Sir Compton MaKenzie contributing a mere 10. They were to be handsomely rewarded.

The Canny Deal

Roy Thomson approached ATV to provide Scottish with all their network programmes - in effect to become an affiliate, showing the ATV schedule when they weren't showing local programmes. He agreed with Lew Grade to pay 900,000 for the first year, and 1 million for another seven. Two years later similar franchises were paying 10 million for their network programmes.

The Rogue Transmitter

The transmitter employed at Black Hill was of a new type. However, aerial installers over Central Scotland, particularly to the east of the site were puzzled - not only was the signal weaker than they had been told, it had a different polarisation. This strange behaviour deprived many potential viewers particularly in the Dundee area of any decent signal at all for about two years until it could be replaced. This area later became disputed when Grampian started.

The rewards

Like the other companies the initial investors were to witness a spectacular rise in their fortunes. When Scottish Television was floated as a public company in 1965 the value was 22 times the original investment. Roy Thomson alone made 13 million, with which he purchased the Kemsley newspaper business.

Franchise Challenges

Like most of the companies Scottish sailed through the 1963/4 round. In 1967/8 they had much tougher opposition, in the shape of a consortium of The Economist (edited then by Alistair Burnet), and The Observer, with Jo Grimond as Chairman and Alistair Milne as Director of Programmes. They didn't win, and Alistair Milne has attributed this to the ITA, particular the member for Scotland, being sympathetic to Scottish, compounded by being too strongly critical of the performance of Scottish Television in their presentation.

In 1981/2 they were opposed by two groups but again won through. No-one attempted to beat them in 1992, where they secured the franchise with a bid of 2,000 pa and 2% of their qualifying revenue.

Now they have become part of the Scottish Media Group, and have incorporated old rival Grampian.

Dates & Transmitters

Start: 31/08/57

Transmitters:

VHF

Black Hill: 10V 31/08/57-03/01/85
Rosneath:   13V 13/12/68
Rothesay:    8V 30/08/68
Lethanhill: 12V 31/01/69

UHF (Main)

Black Hill: 43H 13/12/69
Craigkelly: 24H 27/09/71
Darvel:     23H 01/12/72
Torosay:    25H 11/06/76

Scottish Index Programmes Addresses ITW