ITV After Hours
I'm not gonna wait till The Midnight Hour.
The British love bedtime. It's the only time that television can't compete with, so for the first couple of decades ITV just didn't bother, and in case you weren't aware, they would display a clock at the end of daily transmission to prove how late it was. It was like we were keeping them up.
When ITV debuted in September 1955 there was an established hour-
But TV for the last couple of hours of the day was nothing to talk about, usually
filled with post-
In October 1958 the ITA applied to the Postmaster General for an increase of weekly
broadcasting hours from 50 to 71, meaning another three hours per day. The original
allocation of 50 hours was with the BBC's agreement, but the increase, which would
be optional, would likely be given over mid-
In a surprising gesture towards giving the people what they want the BBC's That Was The Week That Was debuted late on a Saturday night in November 1962, just after the day's football highlights, and no, it wasn't Match Of The Day then. The show was a response to ITV's What The Public Wants which, due to contractual misunderstanding, had to be removed from the schedules, and quickly. It showed that people were willing to stay up and watch if the channels actually bothered in playing anything worthwhile.
But even up to the mid-
Despite having requested the extra hours none of the ITV stations suggested what would be shown that would make those extra hours worth staying up for, although ATV argued in their 1969 annual report "There are significant minority and other groups in the population who cannot be reached so long as such restrictions continue to apply." If they were hoping that the extension would bring in much needed advertising then they would have to earn it, but it was never suggested that the extra hours was something that the had public requested.
By this time, the only regular concession that guaranteed after hours telly would have been new year's eve and general elections. Thankfully, the moon landing in summer 1969 made through the night TV a necessity, with both the BBC and ITV putting on a respectable showing. But even within spitting distance of TV going colour in late 1969 everything was still unplugged by midnight, but the weekend relented and BBC2's Midnight Movie was occasionally worth staying up for. Even the first Christmas in colour wouldn't even make that much of an effort to take TV into tomorrow. Postmaster General, John Stonehouse hinted at an unlimited extension for "certain types of programmes" in late 1969. However his request for an extension of hours for ITV was rebuffed by the government as it was felt that the BBC could not compete. Talking at a symposium on broadcasting in late 1969 Stonehouse suggested "There are powerful arguments not merely to extend hours but to abolish restrictions on television broadcasting hours altogether."
In February 1970 Television Caroline threatened to broadcast from a Constellation aircraft 20,000 feet above the UK. Technically, it was never going to work, but the attraction of broadcasting until 2 am was enough to draw attention from the media, while in July 1970 the ITA would make another approach to the government to extend broadcasting hours.
The idea of a fourth national channel was touted in the early seventies, and to help
it compete an extension of broadcasting hours was likely to be offered to ITV. Chris
Chataway, Minster of Posts and Telecommunications announced in the Commons in January
1972 that there would be an end to all restrictions on broadcasting hours, and in
June it was announced that ITV would begin broadcasting 9.30 am until midnight, except
for Thursday to Saturday when it could broadcast later. It was considered that the
repeats and movies shown late at night were for shift workers and people who couldn't
watch during the evening. ATV had already announced that closure would be at somewhere
between 1 to 1.30 am with other ITV companies likely to follow. ITV by that time
liked to finish off the day with movies, documentaries, repeats of The Avengers or
even wrestling, but the end of the day would still be around midnight and seen off
by an earnest, thoughtful folk singer or religiously inclined minor celebrity. Old
movies or American TV movies became the way to say goodnight by the mid-
The late seventies saw cheap Canadian imports like Oscar Peterson Presents, Celebrity Concert and George Hamilton IV clinging to the late night schedules like bindweed, showing up somewhere nearly every day. Each series would get passed around each station of the network, seemingly lasting an eternity.
By the early 1980s ITV were only thinking of extending opening hours to the other
end of the day with breakfast TV. The same honour would not be bestowed upon the
The promise of something different was delivered when Channel 4 took to the air in
late 1982, but what it didn't deliver was late night TV, as it usually closed at
midnight too. The promise of multi-
The point had been made and Yorkshire would be the first out of the traps in August
1986 with Music Box, EMI's MTV clone which didn't find much of an audience on satellite,
so was given a terrestrial tryout. Other ITV channels then gave it a go with bundled
presentations of shows, promo videos, cartoons and imports, sometimes with in-
In the nineties youth targeted show like The Hitman and Her and Hotel Babylon came and went, but both would have been better suited for weekend broadcast.
24 hour TV was now with us and the public apparently couldn't care less, and neither
by the looks of it could advertisers as many of the intended advert breaks were unsold
and taken up with the government's legendary Public Service Announcements. Pretty
much all of the above packages handed in their cards early, with only Night Network
really bothering with any original programming. Re-
The late/early hours would eventually be taken up with rigged quizzes, premium phone-
...and don't forget to unplug your sets.