Carlton Television was originally set up by Michael Green's Carlton Communications to bid for an ITV franchise after Green failed to buy into Thames Television, the London franchise, in 1985. On 16 October 1991, Carlton won the 'Channel 3' franchise to broadcast to London during weekdays from January 1993 as a result of winning the silent auction used to renegotiate the new ITV franchises. Thames bid £32.5M while Carlton Television placed a bid of £43.2M, since both Thames and Carlton were deemed to have passed the quality threshold, the franchise was awarded to Carlton for having submitted the higher cash bid. Some commentators consequently speculated that Thames had fallen victim to a 'government vendetta', whilst others felt that the auction had been won fairly.
Carlton did not buy Thames studios instead opting to rent transmission space at LWT's London studios. Also unlike Thames which was both a production company and a broadcaster, Carlton chose to commission all of its programming from independent production companies.
Carlton started broadcasting at the stroke of midnight on 1 January 1993, with the station's first programme A Carlton New Year, produced jointly by The Pozzitive Production Company and Michael Hurll Television, and presented by Chris Tarrant. Aptly, its first commercial break featured an advert for the Vauxhall Carlton.
In May 1994, Independent Television Commission criticised a number of ITV stations as part of its review for the first 12 months of the new franchise in 1993. Carlton was condemned for providing a wide range of "unimpressive and very disappointing" programmes for the ITV network, which were "neither distinctive nor noticeable high quality". Carlton responded by angrily stating that "In the first year, Carlton launched 43 brand new series and 20 new single programmes, sustained audience levels and played a full part in ITV network, successes far outweighed failures". A few days later, Carlton won two awards from the Royal television society programme and tech awards in London; Margie Clarke was named: "Best female presenter" for Carlton's "Good Sex Guide" while "Old Bear Stories" won the Children's Entertainment award.
During a 1994 review, ITC commented that Carlton had made improvements, in its factual and drama output, while its Children's programmes was "Impressive", but more remained to be achieved. In 1995, its regional programming was regarded as high quality but with few innovations, The Good Sex Guide was guilty of breaching taste and decency requirements with little educational classifications, which resulted in the company receiving two written warnings from the ITC. Once again in 1997 the company was criticised for failing to ensure its programming complied with programmes code, while the number of formal interventions from the ITC had increased from four in 1995 to eight, but its regional programming continued to be of high quality. In 1997, the company escaped receiving any criticism from the ITC.
Carlton found itself at the centre of a major controversy about truthfulness in broadcast journalism in May 1998, when The Guardian carried a series of articles alleging the wholesale fabrication of a much-garlanded 1996 Carlton documentary, The Connection, which had purported to film the route by which heroin was smuggled into the United Kingdom from Colombia. An internal inquiry at Carlton found that The Guardian's allegations were in large part correct and the then industry regulator, the ITC, punished Carlton with a record £2-million fine for multiple breaches of the UK's broadcasting codes. The scandal led to an impassioned debate about the accuracy of documentary production.
Changes in legislation concerning media ownership enabled Carlton to buy out many of the other ITV stations, including Central Independent Television, Westcountry, and part of HTV (via Granada), as well as the rights to the archives of ITC Entertainment and its former sister company ATV, and the Rank film archive in 1997. HTV was the only region owned by Carlton not to be subject to a full rebrand as Carlton. Both "HTV West" and "HTV Wales" stayed with their then-current idents; however upon Carlton's purchase, the animated introduction and music to the idents were replaced by the sequences and audio in use with Carlton's graphical package. The logo and endboard of the ident remained unchanged however, using the generic hearts look of 1999. Carlton also did not acquire most of HTV's production facilities, most of which Granada retained.
The ITC archive is financially lucrative since it includes such popular shows as Thunderbirds, Danger Man, The Prisoner, and The Saint, as well as feature films such as The Return of the Pink Panther, On Golden Pond, and Capricorn One. Many Rank Organisation films became part of the Carlton library. Carlton released much of this material on video and DVD via its own label in the UK, and via A & E Home Video, Acorn Media, MGM Home Entertainment, and Lions Gate Home Entertainment in the USA. A large number of these films were shown on Carlton's digital movie channel, Carlton Cinema; however, it closed in March 2003. The merger with Granada led to the use of the Carlton name falling into disuse, and Carlton Video became part of Granada Ventures.
In 1997 Carlton formed a partnership with Granada and BSkyB to bid for some of the multiplexes for the new digital terrestrial network. In June it was successful in its application, and began the service, OnDigital, under the condition BSkyB withdrew from the group.
In September 2002, Carlton and Granada, having now acquired all the franchises in England and Wales, made the decision to remove all regional idents, continuity and branding, and replace them with the single brand, ITV1. English regional idents were to only precede regional programming, and regional announcements were pre-recorded from London (Wales gets on-screen recognition prior to all programming, see ITV1 Wales). Unlike Granada-owned regions, Carlton used dual-branding on its regional idents with the Carlton logo, so the Carlton Westcountry and Carlton Central regions were simply known as ITV1 Carlton. Granada-owned franchises preferred simply to place text of the region name under the ITV1 logo. This went on until December 2003, when Carlton dropped the practice, resulting in changing the brands from Carlton Central to ITV1 for Central England, from Carlton Westcountry to ITV1 for the Westcountry. The HTV regions were re-branded ITV1 Wales and ITV1 West of England in 2002.
On 2 February 2004, Carlton Communications plc merged with Granada plc, creating ITV plc, which now owns all of the ITV franchises in England and Wales under the ITV1 brand (Wales still uses its own on-screen identity as ITV1 Wales, but now also uses English ITV1 continuity). The three English Carlton ITV regions were reverted to their previous names: ITV1 for Central England again became ITV1 Central, ITV1 West of England became ITV1 West and ITV1 for the Westcountry became ITV1 Westcountry, prior to regional programming in their respective areas.
Since 28 October 2002, Carlton Television (in common with all the other ITV companies, except Scottish Television, Grampian Television, Ulster Television and Channel Television) has been known on air simply as ITV1 (London Weekdays). Unlike London Weekend Television, Carlton Television did not note the last day (25/10/02) of its regional identity on-air. However, the Carlton brand continued to be seen on production captions until 2004. Since Carlton and London Weekend Television now use identical presentation and logos, the division between the London weekday and weekend franchises is now invisible, although the old LWT - now ITV1 (London Weekends) - does have London Weekend Weather, which is sponsored by a different company to that of London Weekdays.
With the merger of Carlton and Granada, Carlton Television and LWT are now run as a single entity (ITV London), with a single management team appointed to both companies. Both continue to have a separate legal existence however, and still have separate licences, although this is now just a formality.
Upon merger, Carlton lost recognition to programmes made by their companies, which became branded as Granada and the relevant area, for example, all programmes made in London became branded as Granada London. From 16 January 2006, all programmes produced by any ITV plc owned region are branded by ITV Studios.
Carlton was a publisher broadcaster who never made any of their own programming themselves. Carlton productions that required studio space were booked at Lenton Lane when Carlton bought Central Independent Television in 1994, obtaining the company's Nottingham studios and gained the in-house production arm. The studios were booked by independent production companies.
Carlton were originally based in a small office building in St. Martin's Lane in Central London, with transmission being provided by studios in London and managed by London News Network, a joint company between Carlton and London Weekend Television that also provided a seven-day news service.
Following the creation of ITV plc in 2004, Carlton's office in St. Martin's Lane was vacated and the operations transferred to The London Studios, albeit as part of the ITV plc operations housed there. This has now moved to the HD Technicolor Playout Centre at Chiswick.
Carlton's on-screen identity was launched on 1 January 1993 with an ident package featuring London personalities. These people, who lived and worked in the capital would appear against a brightly coloured background with the Carlton logo in the top left corner, and would say the phrase, "This is Carlton, television for London", or other variations of the theme. In excess of sixty idents were produced and used from 1993. This was replaced by a single montage of individuals used from later on in the year until 1 September 1995.
On 4 September 1995, a new in-house look was launched featuring changing backgrounds of colours with a translucent Carlton logo in the centre of the screen, becoming opaque and white at the end of the ident. These idents lasted until 22 November 1996, but were deemed not exciting or brash enough for Carlton executives.
Lambie-Nairn devised the new set on 25 November 1996, featuring the Carlton logo against a brightly coloured background and various animations occurring. This could be interaction between other letters in the name, letters being replaced by objects, or the letters becoming part of something larger, such as a crossword of places in London. Thirty sequences were produced, including some designed especially to introduce certain programmes, and versions for Central were also introduced two years later on 20 April 1998.
On 6 September 1999, Carlton's boldest rebrand yet occurred, and it was also to be its last. While other regions were about to adopt the 'Hearts' generic look, Carlton refused the look and instead adopted a package that related back to the Hearts, but put their own distinct take on it. Lambie-Nairn was once again commissioned, and a dozen idents were produced and were used depending on the programme to go before it. The idents featured opening films featuring a heart shape, before a star shaped light is emitted from the heart shape, before the screen changes to the Carlton logo, now with added star in top right corner, against a spinning stars background of different colours, with ITV logo beneath. This look has received criticism, not concerning the idents themselves, but because these idents replaced the brands used by both Central and Westcountry. It later reached Wales, with the intro retained, but the end board was of the spinning ITV Hearts with the HTV logo.
Carlton used a number of continuity announcers throughout the years.
Some notable Carlton commissions are listed below:
For other details about local news and non-news programmes for London, see London News Network.
Between 1996 and 2003, Carlton owned a number of extra channels, carried initially on analogue cable, and also later on their flagship platform, ONdigital too, although none of them ever made it onto Sky Digital. However, three closed in 2000; and all five were closed by 2003. Most were closed due to funding issues and lack of loyal viewership. They all time-shared on three EPG positions. Carlton Food Network and Carlton Select shared a channel, Carlton Kids, Carlton World, and another channel named 'RAW!' shared the second. Carlton Cinema received an EPG position of its own, but would be periodically closed down to provide bandwidth for "On Sport 2" during the ONdigital days.
Carlton Cinema was the Carlton channel which showed classic movies, but also unusually for a movie channel, cartoons. This ceased transmission on 31 March 2003, the last of the five Carlton channels to do so.
Carlton Select was the main entertainment channel from Carlton, and broadcast both in the UK and Africa. It time-shared with the Carlton Food Network, and ceased transmission in early 2003.
Carlton World was a general entertainment and factual channel broadcast in the evenings, with sister channel Carlton Kids broadcast in the daytime. This ceased transmission in 2000.
Carlton Kids was a children's channel and showed most of all of Carlton's children's imports, and programming from Carlton's regions. Time-shared with Carlton World, it ceased transmission in 2000.
Carlton Food Network was the Carlton channel devoted to cookery, and time-shared with Carlton Select. It was later re-branded 'Taste CFN', and ceased transmission in late 2001.