Southern Television History
A victim of the system.
(Lady Plowden, Chairman of the IBA)
Winning the franchise
By the time that the franchise for central southern England was
advertised, the cash generating potential of an ITV franchise was clear,
as the period of losses had finished.
The number of genuine applicants for this franchise, covering a mixed
area is uncertain, but there were at least nine serious applications
considered by the ITA. Despite the already developing view that
the regional contractors should have a pre-existing relationship with
the area they were to serve, the consortium that won in the end had
little if anything to do with the area, being a venture of the Rank
Organisation, Associated Newspapers and the Amalgamated Press. One
condition placed was that Associated Newspapers had to divest their
remaining stake in Associated Rediffusion,
which they did at a rather poor price to Rediffusion. The management
structure was to remain, although the ownership did vary relatively
through the years, with DC Thomas acquiring Amalgamated Press.
What's in a name?
The era of meaningless "Associated" names had passed, and
geographical ones were in favour. However, it was not particularly
obvious what this should be. Eventually Southern Television was
chosen, omiting mention of England.
Much of Kent was still without ITV in 1959, or received poor pictures.
The area was separately advertised, with all the surrounding
neighbours applying. Southern won, primarily because of its
commitment to establish a studio in this sub-region. The company most
adversely affected by this decision was Anglia.
Franchise battles - 1960s
Like all companies, Southern was cleared through in 1964, and had
little trouble for 1968, where it was opposed by the somewhat
confusingly named `Southern Cross Television' group.
The UHF Problems
Southern was in the second wave of stations being available in colour
in December 1969, and spread across its existing region by 1972, with
one exception. The Dover UHF transmitter had the same power as its
VHF counterpart, but only covered about half its area. The gap to the
north of this was filled by Bluebell Hill, but this was allocated to
the London region, covered by Thames
Television and LWT. This decision weakened
the ability of Southern to maintain its position in the South Eastern
part of its region.
Franchise battles - 1981
Possibly realising that their earlier decision was a mistake, the IBA
reallocated Bluebell Hill for the 1982 franchises, creating the South
East as an official dual region, in the same manner
as Wales and the West and the East and West Midlands.
Several consortia were formed to fight against Southern, with
the TVS company led by James Gatward declared
the winner, who had thought a shot gun marriage with either Southern
or another strong bidder (Charterhouse) was the best that could be
What went wrong?
This is difficult to answer. Southern had been accused of offering poor
coverage for the eastern part of their region, but this was at least
partially a result of the transmitter allocation. Southern's local
programming was generally highly regarded, but the company was owned
outside the region, which was an important consideration applied in
the 1981 analysis. TVS put forward ambitious
proposals, with a multi-talented team. Even Southern's acknowledged
excellence in children's programming was negated by the presence of
Anna Home, a senior BBC children's producer in the TVS bid.
The slow death
Southern didn't die immediately after it lost the franchise. The
Southampton studios were sold to TVS, along
with the news archive, but the general programming library was kept
and marketed. This was finally sold to Primetime Television in the late 1980s.
Chillerton Down 11V 30/8/58-31/12/81
Newhaven 6V 03/8/70-31/12/81 The last ITA 405-line transmitter
Dover 10V 31/1/60-31/12/81
Rowridge 27H 13/12/69-31/12/81
Dover 66H 13/12/69-31/12/81
Hannington 42H 01/11/71-31/12/81
Heathfield 64H 01/11/71-31/12/81
Midhurst 58H 18/12/72-31/12/81