ITV Granada (formerly Granada Television and commonly referred to as simply Granada) is a regional television company in North West England. It is the largest independent television-franchise producing company in the UK, accounting for 25% of the total broadcasting output of the ITV network.
Granada Television was founded by Sidney Bernstein at Granada Studios on Quay Street in Manchester and is the only surviving company of the original four Independent Television Authority franchisees from 1954. It covers Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, and parts of Derbyshire, Cumbria and North Yorkshire. In 2009, the Isle of Man was transferred to ITV Granada from ITV Border.
Broadcasting by Granada Television began on 3 May 1956 under the North of England weekday franchise, the fifth franchise to go to air. It was marked by a distinctive northern identity, and used stylised letter "G" logo forming an arrow pointing north, often with the tagline "Granada: from the North".Granada plc merged with Carlton Communications to form ITV plc in 2004 after a duopoly had developed over the previous decade. The Granada name, as with those of the other former regional licence holders, has completely disappeared except for the regional news bulletins and weeknightly regional news magazine; ITV Broadcasting Limited operates the service with national ITV branding and continuity.
The Granada region before franchise changes in 1968
Granada Television, a subsidiary of Granada Ltd, originated in Granada Theatres Ltd, which owned cinemas in the south of England. It was founded in Dover in 1930 by Sidney Bernstein and his brother Cecil. The company was incorporated as Granada Ltd in 1934 and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1935; Granada Theatres Ltd became a subsidiary of the new company. It is named after the Spanish city of Granada.
The North and London were the two biggest regions. Granada preferred the North because of its tradition of home-grown culture, and because it offered a chance to start a new creative industry away from the metropolitan atmosphere of London … the North is a closely knit, indigenous, industrial society; a homogeneous cultural group with a good record for music, theatre, literature and newspapers, not found elsewhere in this island, except perhaps in Scotland. Compare this with London and its suburbs—full of displaced persons. And, of course, if you look at a map of the concentration of population in the North and a rainfall map, you will see that the North is an ideal place for television".
Transmissions began in Lancashire on 3 May 1956, and Yorkshire six months later. The opening night featured Meet The People hosted by Quentin Reynolds and comedian Arthur Askey. Reynolds became inebriated before the broadcast and had to sober up.
Although referred to as Channel 3, Granada Television actually began broadcasting on Channel 9 V.H.F. in black and white (405 lines) from the Winter Hill transmitter on weekdays from 3 May 1956, with Associated British Corporation (ABC) Television broadcasting in the North & Midlands at weekends. Later 625 lines U.H.F. Channel 59 from Winter Hill and started broadcasting in colour in the autumn of 1969.
Most ITV franchisees viewed their territories as stopgaps before winning a coveted London franchise. In contrast, Granada determined to develop a strong northern identity – northern voices, northern programmes, northern idents with phrases such as Granada from the north, From the north—Granada and Granadaland. Bernstein refused to employ anyone not prepared to live in or travel to Manchester and Jeremy Isaacs called him a 'genial tyrant' as a result.
I think that what Manchester sees today, London will see eventually.
— Sidney Bernstein on his hopes that Granada would eventually develop as a key player in British broadcasting in the 1950s.
Bernstein decided to build new studios rather than hiring space or converting old buildings, an approach favoured by the other ITV companies and by the BBC at its original Manchester studios. The investment in new studios in 1954 contributed to Granada struggling financially, and the company was close to insolvency by late 1956. All four ITA franchisees were expected to make losses in the first few years of operation, but Granada's was a significant sum of £175,000 (nearly £3.5m in 2011). When it first became profitable, it had the lowest profits of the quartet.
Granada sought the help of Associated-Rediffusion, the London weekday station, which agreed to underwrite Granada's debts in exchange for a percentage of its profits, without the consent of the ITA, who would have blocked it. Granada accepted the deal, but the popularity of ITV increased and profitability followed. Analysts questioned how Associated-Rediffusion, ABC and ATV were making annual profits of up to £2.7m by 1959 and yet Granada's profits were under £1m. With the increase in income, Granada tried to renegotiate the contract; Associated-Rediffusion refused, souring relations for many years. The deal was worth over £8m (2008: £129m) to Rediffusion. By the early 1960s Granada was established and its soap opera Coronation Street quickly became popular, as did inexpensive game shows such as Criss Cross Quiz and University Challenge.
In the 1968 franchise round, Granada's contract was changed from weekdays across the northern England region to the whole week in the northwest from Winter Hill transmitting station. Yorkshire was defined as a separate region and the contract awarded to Yorkshire Television, broadcasting from Emley Moor transmitting station; its transmissions could be received in parts of North Lincolnshire. Bernstein was angered by the decision to split "Granadaland", and claimed he would appeal to the United Nations. Granada Television was received in what is now Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside and Cheshire, the south of what is now Cumbria (then Lancashire, and smaller parts of Westmoreland and Yorkshire) around Barrow-in-Furness, the High Peak district of Derbyshire (Glossop, Buxton) and parts of the Isle of Man. Parts of North Wales can receive only the Winter Hill transmissions (i.e. Granada) rather than HTV.
Granada retained its franchise in the 1980 franchise review, and invested in multimillion-pound dramatic serial productions such as The Jewel in the Crown and Brideshead Revisited. By the late 1980s the UK commercial broadcasters were considered too small to compete in the world market, and the ITV franchises began to consolidate with the aim of creating a single company with a larger budget.
The Broadcasting Act of 1990 instigated the 1991 franchise auction round, in which companies had to bid for the regions. Mersey Television, a company producing the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside, bid £35m compared to Granada's £9m but Granada won as Mersey's package did not meet the 'quality threshold' applied by the Independent Television Commission. This requirement disadvantaged companies with no previous franchise experience. Granada owned popular television series such as Coronation Street, which it threatened to sell to satellite TV if the franchise was lost. The government responded by relaxing the regulatory regime, so that ITV contractors could take over other companies, and Granada bought several companies. Some at the company considered ITV could survive only as a single merged entity to have sufficient resources to produce big-budget programmes, a concern that increased when BSkyB began to take ITV's viewing share, leading to less advertising revenue, the source of ITV's income.
David Plowright, who had worked at Granada since 1957, resigned in 1992 citing the arrival of Gerry Robinson. He tightened the departmental budget with an uncompromising business approach. Plowright had been the company's driving force, producing programmes such as World in Action, and Coronation Street, and promoting the Granada Studios Tour. His departure angered well-known media-industry figures; John Cleese faxed Robinson using 'vitriolic language' and called him an 'upstart caterer', a reference to his past employment.John Birt, Harold Pinter and Alan Bennett all supported Plowright for his quality programming.
The so-called 'Big 5' ITV franchisees, Thames, LWT, Central, Granada, and Yorkshire Television were expected to take over the ten smaller franchises. Granada wanted to consolidate with Yorkshire and Tyne Tees Television to 'counter the potential dominance of the south east', and the prospect of being taken over by Thames Television. Granada made a hostile bid for LWT in December 1993, but LWT believed Granada had little to offer despite having three times the market capitalisation; Granada, however, completed the take-over in 1994. Granada continued to expand by acquiring Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television for £652m in 1997 and bought UNM's television assets for £1.75 billion in 2000 – by which it acquired Anglia Television and Meridian Broadcasting and some divisions of HTV – the remaining divisions passing to rival company Carlton due to competition laws. A year later, it acquired Border from Capital Radio Group.
Granada was in a poor financial state and closed the Granada Studios Tour in 2001, citing decreasing visitor figures. The real reason was the decision to increase production of episodes for Coronation Street to five per week. Without access to that set, the highlight of the tour, the Granada Studios Tour venture was no longer viable. The company also closed Granada Film. The emergence of digital television cut ITV's viewing share, decreasing advertising revenue, which was already suffering from competition with the internet. The failure of ITV Digital cost Granada and Carlton losses estimated at over £1 billion reducing the company's value from 2001 to 2003.
ITV Granada and the unification of ITV
A 2001–2002 ident with the website for itv.com and the region's familiar logo.
ITV Granada logo used from 2006 to 2013.
On 28 October 2002, in a network-wide relaunch, Granada was rebranded as ITV1 Granada. The Granada name was shown before regional programmes, but this has ceased; its name has vanished from screens as have all other ITV regional identities. Since rebranding, all continuity announcements are made from London. The Granada logo appeared at the end of its own programmes until 31 October 2004.
Granada was permitted by the government to merge with Carlton on 2 February 2004 to form ITV plc. The move was a takeover by Granada, whose market capitalisation was double that of Carlton at nearly £2 billion. Granada owned 68% of the shares and Carlton 32%; chairman designate Michael Green was ousted by shareholders and the majority of new board members originated from Granada. Carlton employees were subsumed in Granada operations or made redundant, with three out of four new departments led by Granada staff.
From 1 November 2004, Granada productions were credited "Granada Manchester", the brand of the unified in-house production arm but on 21 September 2005, it was announced that Granada's name would no longer appear at the end of programmes. The in-house production arm was renamed 'ITV Productions'. The change on 16 January 2006 coincided with a relaunch of ITV's on-screen graphics. Granada's name and logo were used at the end of programmes made for other networks, such as University Challenge for BBC Two and old programmes shown on BSkyB channels 1, 2 and the former 3 (now Pick), until 2009.
In November 2006, Granada lost its on-air identity when regional programming voiced ITV1 or ITV1 Granada over a generic ident. Local news coverage was branded Granada News except for the main 18.00 Granada Reports bulletin. Granada Reports' main rival is BBC North West Tonight, broadcast to roughly the same region. In 2009, ITV removed the Granada brand from all departments including its international production arm, Granada America which became ITV Studios America. End credits on programmes made at The Manchester Studios were credited to ITV Studios.
ITV made cutbacks, dropping 600 jobs in 2009, which effectively closed the Yorkshire Television Leeds Studios; more redundancies were made in London, leaving Granada relatively unscathed. In the 2009 ITV regional news cutbacks, Granada was one of three regions unaffected by changes except for picking up the Isle of Man which had previously been served by ITV Border's Lookaround programme.
ITV is obliged by UK communications regulator Ofcom to produce 50% of its programmes outside London, something it failed to achieve in 2007 and 2008. With this obligation, retaining Manchester as the northern hub, and an £80m move to MediaCityUK on 25 March 2013, ITV appears to be committed to the Granada region for the foreseeable future.