The Coverage

The programmes provided by the programme companies are transmitted from the Authority’s stations. The system of 22 transmitters which now covers about 96 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom had to be developed by using a group of six channels in the frequency Band III, allocated to the Authority by the Postmaster-General. No direct experience of operating programme services in Band III in this country was available to guide the Authority’s engineers in the development of Band III, and they and the manufacturers had to start virtually from scratch. None-the-less, within three years, three-quarters of the population had been given access to Independent Television programmes. The extension of coverage is traced in the maps and tables which follow. The story of this engineering achievement is told more fully in the chapter “Technical Achievements”.

The Growth of Coverage

End of year Cumulative population coverage (thousands) Percentage of total UK population %
1955 12,290 24
1956 30,116 59
1957 33,666 66
1958 38,900 76
1959 44,366 86
1960 45,016 88
1961 48,587 94
1962 estd. 50,981 96

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THE SPREAD OF INDEPENDENT TELEVISION is progressively traced in these nine maps. The Television Act was passed in July 1954 and the Authority first met in August. The service began from Croydon on 22nd September 1955. The service areas shown in the final map include about 96 per cent of the population.

The Growth of I.T.A. Homes

End of year Cumulative ITA homes (thousands) Percentage of all TV homes Percentage of all homes
1955 495 30.8 12.5
1956 2,656 53.3 25.8
1957 4,684 69.2 39.6
1958 6,540 75.9 46.6
1959 8,605 80.8 55.2
1960 10,292 87.0 65.4
1961 11,282 88.3 68.9
1962 estd. 12,300 90.0 73.0

The Procedure of the Authority

This system of interrelated companies, technical installations and control arrangements operates under the direct control of the Independent Television Authority. The Authority usually consists of a Chairman, Deputy Chairman, and eight Members. The Members of the Authority serve in a part-time capacity, though the Chairman is expected to make the work of the Authority his main interest. Three of the members have as their special care the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. Members are appointed by the Postmaster-General “from among persons appearing to him to be qualified for the Office”, and the Minister is required to satisfy himself that they have no outside interests likely to affect prejudicially their conduct as members. Meetings of the Authority are held every three weeks, generally at its headquarters in London, but several times a year meetings are held in centres of Independent Television production in other parts of the United Kingdom. At the meetings the Authority’s policy is determined and all aspects of its work are reviewed.

The head of the Authority’s permanent staff is the Director-General, Sir Robert Fraser, O.B.E. The Authority employs a staff of about 550 people, of whom about 180 are headquarters administrative and technical staff, 350 technical staff manning the transmitters and 17 regional staff.

The main formal channel of communication between the Authority and the programme companies is a Standing Consultative Committee (SCC). Senior executives of each company and senior staff of the Authority attend the monthly meetings of ,this committee which sits under the chairmanship of the Authority’s Director-General. Between meetings a constant flow of information and consultation between the Authority’s officers and each company ensures that the Authority’s policy is understood and carried out. Through its Regional Officers the Authority is represented in the Regions. These officers are responsible for the day-to-day surveillance of the Independent Television output in their areas, as well as for liaison with local authorities, voluntary bodies and members of the public.

The Authority is advised by committees of experts in the field of Religion, Children’s and School programmes, Adult Education, and the control of advertisements.


Independent Television is financially self-supporting. No charge falls on public funds. Under Section 10 of the Television Act the Authority is charged

so to conduct its affairs as to secure that its revenues become at the earliest possible date, and thereafter continue, at least sufficient –

(a) to meet all sums properly chargeable to revenue account (including sums required for the repayment of loans and interest thereon, for provision for depreciation and/or the establishment and maintenance of their reserve fund); and

(b) to make provision towards, and as soon as practicable for necessary capital expenditure.

To enable the Authority to start operations, it was empowered under Section 12 of the Act to borrow from the Postmaster-General, with the consent of the Treasury, up to £2 million initial capital in its first five years. In fact, it proved necessary to borrow only £555,000, and this sum was wholly repaid by the middle of 1959. The Authority’s responsibilities under Section 10 are therefore fulfilled, both its revenue expenditure and its capital investment programme being paid for entirely out of the revenue from the programme companies.


A full account of the provisions of the Act regarding the inclusion of advertisements in the programmes and of the Authority’s responsibilities in the advertising field is given in the chapter “Advertising Control”.

Two salient points are:

(i) Sponsorship is not allowed; advertisers are not allowed to supply, suggest or take credit for programmes. They may only buy time in the programmes in the same way as they would buy space in the press.

(ii) The frequency and permitted amount of advertising in the programmes are controlled by the Authority.