It gives me great pleasure to provide the introduction to this special publication marking the 21st Anniversary of Independent Television in the Channel Islands.
I think there can be no doubt about the immense achievement for which Channel Television has been responsible since joining the ITV family on air in September, 1962 — it is worth recalling that the challenge which faced the Company two decades ago was daunting.
Television is a very expensive business and the self-financing systems for which the Independent Broadcasting Authority, then known as the Independent Television Authority, is responsible, has to depend entirely on the advertisements sandwiched between the programmes and inserted into the ‘natural breaks.’
When ITV made its pioneering start in the London area in 1955, followed by the Midlands and the North of England during the successive year, it seemed essential for financial viability that the ITV areas should be relatively large, with several million potential viewers. And indeed it took a little time at first for the public to tune in in sufficient numbers and for adequate revenue from commercials to emerge.
It did come right, but not without some apprehension about the future. It is too easily forgotten that in those days ITV was a genuine risk-taking business with venture capital and there was no certainty of success.
The spread to the rest of Great Britain was a cautious and carefully planned one. When it came to the West Country’s turn in the Summer of 1959, some of my predecessors must have been surprised when a group of people from the Channel Islands suggested that they should be allowed to join the club.
As Bernard Sendall, a former Deputy Director General of the ITA/IBA recalled in a recent volume of his admirable history of Independent Television in Britain; “The idea of a company able to survive with an audience of at best 25,000 viewing homes had hitherto not been contemplated.”
The ITA anticipated there would be difficulties but was impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment by many people who felt a separate television service, based in and concentrated on the affairs of the Islands could and would survive.
Following necessary changes in legislation to allow mainland-originated programmes which would be beamed from the West of England to be broadcast on the Islands, the ITA invited applications and received two by the closing date in March, 1960 and selected, after much deliberation, Channel TV.
It took a further two and a half years for the new television company to take to the air waves. In these days of rapidly developing technological change when we take for granted live pictures from virtually anywhere on Earth, and indeed Space as well, it is worth recalling just how difficult a task it was to bring ITV, with its own unique local hallmark, to the Channel Islands.
At the outset, it was the foresight and great engineering skill of Channel’s engineers that produced the smallest television station in Europe, and I should like to pay particular tribute here to your first Chief Engineer, Brian Turner, who sadly died earlier this year.
All who were involved in the project had good reason to be proud of the studio centre; it has served the Channel Islands well for twenty one years and even today is still a prime example of a small low budget studio.
When colour television arrived, IBA engineers developed a world “first” to ensure that the new high quality picture would make the journey across the sea without interference. SABRE, or to give it its full title, Steerable Adaptive Broadcast Reception Equipment, guarantees this.
Limited though its resources are, Channel Television’s resourcefulness seems boundless. Over the years it has contributed programmes to the whole of the ITV Network, including documentaries on the Channel Islands, and pioneered the introduction of the new technology of electronic news-gathering.
Its response to crises has also been notable. During the strike which took ITV off the screens on the Mainland in 1979 for several weeks, Channel’s small staff managed to keep broadcasting — a considerable achievement.
When I visited the Channel Islands last year I noted the great loyalty Channel Islanders have for their station. It is regarded with similar affection by the rest of the ITV family.
It is a tribute to the founders of Channel TV and a proper source of pride that so much of these Islands can enjoy Independent Television.