Thames On Its’ Fateful Day (ITV, 1991)
16 October 1991 was one of the most remarkable days in the history of British TV, one of those moments where you could say that everything changed. It was the day that the ITC would announce the results of the franchise auction where we would discover what companies would run ITV for the next decade. There are lots of news clips online from this day but this piece is based on the one which contains the initial reveal of the results which was uploaded to YouTube by “AntarcticaTelevision” a while ago so credit goes to them.
The video starts with a brief clip of Thames News just before the results were announced. Thames was the biggest ITV region and one of the most successful so there would be no problem with them retaining the franchise, right? Little did they know what was about to happen.
We then go to John Suchet in the ITN studio. They’ve interrupted The Time… The Place… for this so the news better be important. The results have just come in so it’s over to the Nicholas Owen at the ITC to tell us what’s happened. I didn’t actually see this the first time round so finally watching it was a rather remarkable experience, especially all these years later, knowing what we do now.
Nicholas tells us that four companies have lost their franchise. We find out that TVS have lost to Meridian, TSW have lost to Westcountry and TV-am have lost to Sunrise (who later changed their name to GMTV). (Oracle also lost their franchise to Teletext but Nicholas doesn’t point that out). The big news though is that Thames have lost to Carlton. Well it was incredible really, a huge upset that nobody saw happening. However, LWT did win.
I still remember the moment when I was told the news and I do remember watching the News at 12:30 and the afternoon edition of Thames News on that day. It begins with the ITV corporate ident voiced by a rather surprised sounding Peter Marshall. Thames dropped the corporate look a week or two after this. It wasn’t a coincidence. The local news was hosted by Robin Houston who had the difficult task of essentially revealing that he and many others would be out of a job at the start of 1993.
It includes a report with TV-am’s Mike Morris telling us how upset he was at the news and the Managing Director of Thames Richard Dunn describing the auction as “something of a farce”, and it is difficult not to disagree with him. However, he would go on to make a dignified closing speech on Thames’s final night in December 1992.
I’ll be taking a look back in a piece soon about the end of Thames and the launch of Carlton. A lot of people pinpoint this as “the day ITV went rubbish”. As a Londoner it was a real shock to think that Thames had lost. Things wouldn’t be the same again, that’s for sure.