The IBA celebrates 25 years of its smallest contractor

John Whitney, Director General of the IBA

Cover of the brochure
From “…the first twenty-five years”, published in 1987

I AM delighted to introduce this special publication marking the 25th Anniversary of Independent Television in the Channel Islands — and the tremendous achievement for which all those involved have been responsible since the Channel Television Company joined the ITV family on air in September 1962.

The task facing the company from the outset was unique. And so is the service it has provided.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority, then known as the Independent Television Authority, is responsible under Act of Parliament for a public service television system for the British Isles which depends almost entirely on income from the sale of advertising time. It receives no licence fee or other general public subvention.

From its inception in London in 1955, ITV progressively developed into a federal system of 15 companies in different regions, with the Authority appointing the contractors and providing the transmitters — as well as meeting its other costs — from rentals which the companies paid it.

Once the financial viability of ITV areas of several million viewers had been established in the early years, other and smaller regions were added. But the Authority had not contemplated the idea of a television station able to survive and provide a special service to an audience of only some 25,000 viewing homes when, in 1959, a group of pioneers in the Channel Islands suggested that they might join the new system.

John Whitney
John Whitney

Impressed by the enthusiasm for a separate television service based on the Islands, the Authority eventually invited applications from interested parties in March 1960. Channel Islands Communications (Television) Limited was duly appointed and after two and a half years of intensive preparation took to the air as Channel Television — the smallest television station in Europe at that time.

It needed a change in the Act of Parliament to allow mainland-originated networked programmes to be broadcast in the islands — and then some very special engineering.

When colour was introduced to the ITV system, it could have seemed a near-impossible feat to bring the fragile signals across 80 miles of sea from South Devon to Alderney, long before distribution by satellite was available.

To do this successfully, our engineers designed, built and installed the world’s first computer-type ‘adaptive’ aerial ever to be used for broadcasting: an ‘intelligent’ aerial that sensed when there was interference from the many other stations on both sides of the English Channel, and then automatically changed its performance to reject the interference, while hanging on like a limpet to the wanted pictures. Nowadays we use a smaller adaptive aerial on the French coast to enable us to link Channel to Southampton rather than to Plymouth.

From the start, however, Channel Television’s greatest purpose and strength has been in providing a service of local news and information for the Island. The fragmented characters of the two Bailiwicks has always presented a challenge for the news-gatherers in getting the stories back in time. A combination of ingenuity and technology has helped them achieve this. A micro-wave link between the Guernsey and Jersey studios has long been in operation and spring this year saw the establishment of permanently-based lightweight television cameras in Alderney and Sark.

Certainly the particular engineering expertise of Channel’s Managing Director, Ken Killip, who retires this month, has been an exceptional asset, not only to the Company, but to ITV as a whole. For four years, he was Chairman of Oracle Teletext Ltd, pioneering the introduction of the hundreds of pages of written information which can nowadays be received on the screen.

A lattice transmitter mast
The IBA mast at Fremont Point

We live in times of accelerating change in broadcasting, and of choice of viewing. The development of satellite broadcasting, in particular, will raise a host of questions as to the best means of providing people in every locality with the range and quality of programming they want and are entitled to expect.

It is a happy consequence of the ITV federal system that no matter how small the scale of a region, the councils of ITV have access to the wisdom of Ken Killip and Channel Television, accrued over the years — and to its programme output.

In recent years the strands of Channel Television’s programmes which have been seen on the ITV network throughout Britain have included regular contributions to the documentary series About Britain and to the religious series Highway. In this Silver Jubilee year, Channel Television has been successful with its first network series, The Dodo Club, encouraging children to take an interest in the conservation of endangered wildlife.

In signalling the twenty-fifth year of Channel Television, I pay the warmest tribute to the many people who have ensured its success, including particularly Ken Killip and Harold Fielding — a director of the Company from the very beginning — both of whom leave Channel Television in an honoured place in the esteem of the television industry, and of the people of the Channel Islands, and equipped to meet the challenges of the future.


The Lee Barnard Collection in the Transdiffusion Archives

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