History Southern Television

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.

Winning Dover

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 hoped for.

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

Southern Television Index Programmes Addresses ITW