Central Independent Television

Central Independent Television

Infobox ITV franchisee
name = Central Independent Television (1982-2006)
ITV Central (2006 - present)

based = Birmingham, Nottingham
area = Midlands
owner = ITV plc
airdate = 1 January 1982
"The Central cake: Central TV logo 1985-1998"
captionb =
closeddate = lost on-air identity 27 October 2002 "(known as ITV1 Central before regional programming only)"
replaced = ATV
replacedby =
website = [http://www.itvlocal.com/central itvlocal.com/central]

Central Independent Television, more commonly known as Central and now legally ITV Central Ltd, is the British Independent Television contractor for the Midlands [ [http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/tvlicensing/c3/carlton_central/ Central Licence - Ofcom] ] , created following the restructuring of ATV and commencing broadcast on 1 January 1982. The main news programme for the region is "Central Tonight".


During the 1970s, previous Midlands licence holder, ATV had often been criticised for its lack of regionality to its' area. Although ATV had purpose-built a modern colour production complex in the centre of Birmingham many of its major productions were recorded at its main studios at Elstree, London, a legacy of when the company also served London at the weekends prior to 1968. Equally, its corporate headquarters were in Central London.

ATV attempted to address its problem in 1980 as part of its franchise re-application; with plans for a second major facility in the area (to be based in Nottingham) and as part of the Independent Broadcasting Authority plan for the contract to be a dual region, they would provide separate news coverage for both the East and the West Midlands. The company name would also be changed from ATV Network Limited to ATV Midlands Limited, thus reinforcing the new regional focus. The IBA accepted ATV's assertion that ATV Midlands Ltd planned to take a more local identity, and awarded the contract to ATV Midlands Ltd on the basis that further changes were to be implemented, including that the parent company "Associated Communications Corporation" would divest 49% of its shareholding in ATV Midlands Ltd in an attempt to introduce local shareholders and that ATV Midlands Ltd's registered office should be within the region. To demonstrate this change of share structure the IBA insisted that ATV change its company name, to show that it was a substantially new company. [ [http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/itw/ATV/history.html ATV History - Independent TeleWeb] ]

It has been reported that, around the time of the franchise changing hands, a canny local businessman registered dozens of company names (some of which included the words "Central" and "Television"), in the hope of being offered substantial financial compensation to relinquish the rights to one of these, if chosen by the new company. Central got around this by simply inserting "Independent" into their name on registering it (something the businessman had not thought of) [http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/itw/Central/history.html] .


Central retained ATV's sub-regional split; one sub-region for the West Midlands (with studios in Birmingham), and one for the East Midlands (with studios in Nottingham) [ [http://www.sub-tv.co.uk/atvhistory.asp sub-TV - ATV History] ] . There were few differences between the sub-regions, but each had its own news service and advertisements. This led to the BBC also producing two news programmes ("Midlands Today" for the West and "East Midlands Today" for the East). Central pre-empted the 1990 Broadcasting Act (and a new condition of the Midlands licence) by adding a third sub-region - Central South - in 1989, broadcasting on the Oxford and Ridge Hill transmitters and establishing the news centre on an industrial park in Abingdon in Oxfordshire (retained for the Thames Valley service in 2006, although minus the studio).

Although a new identity to viewers, Central enjoyed the benefit of effectively being a long-established ITV company. For a short while, some shows made by ATV prior to the changeover were transmitted with a static Central caption leading into an animated ATV ident, thus creating confusion to viewers and undermining any attempt by Central to impress its own identity. The much-vaunted share issue had a poor reception (the country was in recession at the time) and resulted in a large minor shareholding being obtained by businessman Robert MaxwellFact|date=July 2007.

tudio facilities

Initially, Central inherited ATV's 1970's Broad Street studios, ATV Centre, which was re-named Central House when the contractor changed its name; It was retained as Central's main base of activity until 1996. Upon winning the franchise, Central decided to construct new studios for its East sub-region, based in Nottingham, Lenton Lane. (This move was even brought in to play in one of its most famous shows "Boon" when the main characters moved from Birmingham to Nottingham in its fourth series in 1989.) Until the new Nottingham studios were ready, Central operated from a converted facility on an industrial estate at Giltbrook, near Eastwood on the outskirts of Nottingham. Operations at Nottingham were to be staffed by employees originally based at Elstree, which led to many problems due to the relocation, including industrial action (in fact, it was because of this industrial action that the promised separate news service for the East Midlands didn't begin until 1984, by which time they had vacated Giltbrook [http://www.transdiffusion.org/emc/studioone/a_trip_to_giltb.php] ).

In 1989, Central opened a third studios for its new South sub-region, based in Abingdon, near Oxford.

In 1994, owners Carlton acquired land on Gas Street, Birmingham, to begin work on building a new digital studio complex, with the intention of replacing Central's Broad Street studios. The new centre was completed in 1997, when Central West's regional news department moved from its Broad Street base. A tribute programme to Broad Street was broadcast on Central News. [ [http://www.transdiffusion.org/emc/studioone/a_trip_to_broad.php Transdiffusion - A Trip to Broad Street] ]

Having been one of the first fully computerised news programmes, Central News South was again a pioneer of new technology when, in the Spring of 2001, state-of-the-art Quantel digital video servers and edit suites were installed, along with a complete re-fit of camera and VTR equipment, placing Central South at the forefront of digital news-gathering in regional news.

In February 2004, ITV plc announced plans to close and sell the Nottingham Lenton Lane production centre, located in Nottingham. Following the closure of the Lenton Lane studios, a new news-gathering centre was established in the city, but production of Central News East moved to Central's Birmingham Gas Street studio in Spring 2005. The former studio complex is now part of The University of Nottingham and is known as 'King's Meadow Campus' [ [http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/prospectuses/undergrad/introduction/about/campuses/kmc.php?menu=kmc&sub=kmc. University of Nottingham - Kings Meadow Campus] ] . It still maintains one Studio (Studio 7), and this is rented out to television and film Companies, generating income for the University.

In October 2004, ITV plc closed Central's presentation/transmission department, moving transmission to the Northern Transmission Centre in Leeds. Although there was heavy opposition, the role of presentation and transmission at Birmingham had been significantly reduced after Network presentation was centralised to LNN in London in 2002 and so there was an inevitability that this function would be moved out. CITV (Children's ITV), which had been presented from Central's Birmingham studios since 1983, was also re-homed to Granada's studios in Manchester, with all content pre-recorded and with out-of vision presentation.

It was announced on 6 June 2006 that Central News South's existence as a news region was to end after 17 years when the eastern half of the region (the area served by the Oxford transmitter) would merge its operations with Meridian West's output, forming a new news region named ITV Thames Valley and a new news programme, "Thames Valley Tonight" would begin. Originally, the changes were supposed to make over 40 workers redundant from the closure of Central South's Abingdon base, however this was later reduced to 20 [ [http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,,1875985,00.html MediaGuardian article (free subscription required)] ] . The last edition was broadcast on Sunday 3rd December, although there was a pan-regional Central News broadcast the following morning during GMTV. At the same time, ITV West's broadcast footprint was expanded to cover Cheltenham and Gloucestershire from the West's Bristol studios, while Herefordshire re-joined Central News West from Birmingham. Abingdon was retained as a newsgathering base, whilst equipment was sold off.

In September 2007, the Central Television building on Broad Street was covered in scaffholding, ready for demolition, which commenced the following month.

As of May 2008 Central House is demolished. The facade still remains. Exhibition hall and the studio block still remain.

As of October 2008, rumours that after a series of recent job cuts a move from Gas Street, to Urban Spash is now on the horizon, so just after Ten years from Bridge Street, Gas Street soon to be left in the same predicament, possibly as already one floor is rumoured to be sitting vacant.


Central currently operates two subregions with shared involvement in a third:

*Central West - based in Birmingham Gas Street predominately operating from the Sutton Coldfield, The Wrekin and recently Ridge Hill transmitters and associated relays.
*Central East - with newsgathering centre in Nottingham but now based in Birmingham Gas Street, operating from the Waltham transmitter and associated relays.
*ITV Thames Valley - Now shared with Meridian. Previously two subregions; Central South and Meridian North, merged in 2006. Central South's Abingdon base has been retained as a newsgathering centre and general office, however produced from Meridian's studios in Whiteley, Hampshire. Broadcast from the Oxford and Hannington transmitters plus associated relays.


Carlton Communications had owned a stake in Central since the early eighties (before Carlton Television became an ITV Franchisee in its own right). In 1994, Central was completely bought by Carlton and on 6 September 1999 was rebranded as Carlton Central, though the registered company name remained Central Independent Television Limited. The new identity, produced by Lambie-Nairn was used across all of Carlton's franchises; Carlton London, Carlton Westcountry and some elements on HTV. Only the "Carlton" name was used on air, however Central's regional news programmes retained the "Central" brand.

With the merger of Carlton and Granada on 2 February 2004, the brand became ITV1 Central. Central Independent Television is currently owned by ITV plc.

On 29 December 2006, Central's registered company name was changed from "Central Independent Television Ltd" to "ITV Central Ltd".

Programme production

The company performed strongly on programming, carrying on several ATV shows, most notably the soap-opera "Crossroads". Original programming included the comedy-drama "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" (more recently revived by the BBC) and the game shows "The Price Is Right", "Bullseye" & "Blockbusters".

On the second day of transmissions, Central made a poor impression to viewers when the Tiswas spin-off O.T.T. went on air. The show was hosted by Chris Tarrant, Lenny Henry and Helen Atkinson Wood. Though it did receive 13 million viewers on that night, it was criticised for being "too sexist" and it did not help that the opening titles were of a naked blow-up doll floating around the screen. Though its viewing figures would normally have earned another series, it was cancelled after the first series, mainly due to its risky and dangerous acts.

Aside from continuing the theme of ATV, Central also produced the heavyweight drama "Walter" for the first evening of Channel 4. A critically-acclaimed drama it starred Ian McKellen in the eponymous lead role as a handicapped man adjusting to life after the death of his mother. The company also produced the detective drama "Inspector Morse" in association with Zenith Productions, a subsidiary of "Carlton Communications", which later purchased Central. Like ATV, Central was a large contributor to programmes for schools and colleges on the ITV network.

It scored a failure however with the 1987 comedy "Hardwicke House", about an anarchic comprehensive school. The first two episodes received so much public condemnation that the remainder were never transmitted.

Central's presentation improved and the branding and continuity became more refined, with the introduction of the "Central cake", a multi-coloured cake-like circle. Christmas 1990 saw Central enjoy its largest audience ever for a Christmas Show with well in excess of 16 million viewers for a pantomime special edition of Family Fortunes, produced by Tony Wolfe and Associate Producer Roger Edwards.

Whereas local news had been a constant criticism of ATV, Central invested more effort into it. As well as the east and west regions, in 1989 a third sub-region covering the South Midlands was created. With a news studio in Abingdon (near Oxford), Central News South was at the time of its creation the most automated news operation in the country. The service was launched on 9th January 1989, the opening night being fraught with technical problems. Presenters Wesley Smith and Anne Dawson co-presented the main programme, and were the longest-serving co-presenters of any ITV regional news programme, until Dawson's departure in 2003 to become a college lecturer. She was replaced as main presenter by Hannah Stewart-Jones, formerly of Channel TV. Both continue to appear on "Thames Valley Tonight", although Wesley Smith's regular co-presenter is now Mary Green, formerly of the West sub-region of "Meridian Tonight".

The BBC finally responded to the creation of Central News South in 2000, by creating a sub-opt-out of "South Today", that is broadcast to Oxfordshire, eastern Wiltshire, and parts of Buckinghamshire.

As well as previously being at the heart of the ITV Network's children's and schools programming, Central was also a significant contributor to network sport production. Until it was moved to London (and merged with LNN's operations to form ITV Sport Productions), Central's sport department, under the leadership of Gary Newbon (who also occasionally appeared on-screen as a reporter and presenter), produced nearly all of ITV's football coverage (from FA Cup to Champions' League). Following its disbandment, Newbon moved to presenting full time, first for talkSPORT, then Sky Sports.


External links

* [http://www.itvlocal.com/central ITV Central] at itvlocal.com
* [http://picasaweb.google.com/simon.star.one/CentralItv Interior and exterior photos] of the original home of Central studios, Broad Street
* [http://www.centraltelevision.co.uk A slowly developing web-guide to Central.]
* [http://www.tiswasonline.com/atv_land.php?area=broad_street&category=studios Tiswas Online] - Tiswas was a popular Saturday morning children's programme produced by ATV / Central.
* [http://www.transdiffusion.org/ident/history/central/ Ident on Central branding]

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