This is my region and I definitely have something to say about this one. When Thames lost their London weekday licence it was something of a shock, and when they finally left the screen as the clock hit midnight on 1 January 1993, Carlton was launched. They began with a rather tacky entertainment show called A Carlton New Year which was hosted by Chris Tarrant and I was so horrified by what I saw I turned off after about ten minutes.
Because Carlton’s launch day was a Friday they left the screen that evening to be replaced by LWT who did keep their licence and it was something of a relief seeing them again. So it could be said that Carlton didn’t really get going until Monday 4 January. The Carlton name didn’t really have anything to do with the region, although some people thought that it stood for “Calling All Real Londoners Turn Off Now”.
Their launch idents featured various people from throughout the region who appeared in front of different coloured backgrounds. To try to make the Carlton name fit into the region more, the “T” was made smaller so “Carlton” could easily turn into “London”. There were a huge amount of these idents made, perhaps at least a hundred, maybe even more, and viewers were bombarded with them until November.
Carlton never had in-vision continuity, and because they launched in the 24-hour era they never closed down either, or used a clock. They used various continuity announcers throughout the years though and Mark Lipscombe was the only one who worked for both Thames and Carlton.
As far as local news coverage goes, the London News Network was created, meaning that there would be the same news programme seven days a week which came from the same studio on both Carlton and LWT, presumably Carlton thought that this would help them to be friendlier to LWT unlike Thames who had something of a long-running rivalry with them.
The main news programme was London Tonight (with the daytime version being London Today). When it launched it was an hour long, and Alistair Stewart was poached from ITN to be the main anchor. Various presenters from Thames News and LWT News were also kept on including Anna-Maria Ashe and Paul Greene. It could be fair to say that the quality of the programme varied from informative to shambolic. The theme music was also turned into a hit single by indie group Collapsed Lung who recorded a version on a double-A side alongside their famous irritating football anthem “Eat My Goal”. By the end of 1993 Carlton dropped their launch idents, keeping the various people from around the region, but no longer having them speak, and also changing the accompanying music. Carlton also produced lots of local programming around this time but not much of it was well received by viewers or the regulator.
In September 1995 Carlton launched another new look, this time with a new soundtrack and the Carlton name finally appearing in big letters in the centre of the screen with the people finally being dropped. Again the idents were various colours. I should also point out that there are lots of clips of Carlton continuity online (most of them uploaded by me).
In November 1996 there was another new look, with the Carlton symbol again appearing in various different colours, and with the letters altered to suit the programmes that they were introducing, such as the “O” being turned into a flashlight to introduce a film, or the Carlton symbol appearing upside down to introduce the Australian soap Home and Away.
These continued until 1999, by which point Carlton had launched several new digital channels as part of OnDigital, such as Carlton Kids, Carlton Cinema and Carlton World, but these had all closed by 2003. Carlton’s next new look in September 1999 was actually rather impressive and possibly the best set of idents that they ever had.
The new ITV corporate look was introduced in November 1999, but Carlton introduced their own variation a couple of months earlier featuring the hearts idea. Again the idents would begin with various colours and graphics that were designed to suit the mood of the programme that they were introducing, such as sports coverage or drama. Also at this point a star was added to the existing Carlton symbol, and this was how it stayed on screen until October 2002.
Regional TV was dropped just before Carlton’s tenth anniversary, but it wasn’t the end just yet. They still produced a few more programmes for ITV, and LNN continued to produce London Tonight until ITN took over in March 2004, and just as it looked like Carlton were trying to take over most of ITV the star symbol vanished from the screen for good.