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Scottish Television

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Based in

First airdate
31 August 1957


Broadcast area
Central Scotland

Owned by
STV Group plc

Scottish Television

Scottish Television (now, legally, known as STV Central Ltd and referred to on-air as STV) is Scotland's largest ITV franchisee, and has held the ITV franchise for Central Scotland since 31 August 1957. It is the second oldest ITV franchisee still active (Granada Television being the oldest). The channel is now owned and operated by STV Group plc (formerly SMG plc), which also owns another independent television franchise, Grampian Television (now STV North), based in Aberdeen.


STV Central produces news for the west and east halves of its transmission region (STV News at Six) along with current affairs, politics and sports programmes for Northern and Central Scotland. Along with STV North and ITV Tyne Tees & Border, STV Central is a commercial rival to the publicly funded national broadcaster, BBC Scotland, and is based alongside its studios at Pacific Quay in Glasgow.


Scottish Television was founded by Canadian newspaper magnate Roy Thomson (later Lord Thomson). As a base he bought the Theatre Royal, Glasgow from Howard & Wyndham Ltd, who became minor partners in the new venture. Thomson invited Canadian television producer Rai Purdy to become the station's first head of programming. In the months leading up to opening night, Purdy pledged that the new channel would provide first class entertainment and as much cultural programming as possible as well as allowing Scottish talent every opportunity to develop and be seen on STV.


Scottish Television began broadcasting at 5:30 pm on Saturday 31 August 1957 with the variety special This is Scotland, broadcast live from the Theatre Royal studios – STV was the first ITV franchise to launch outside the three largest regions (London, the Midlands & Northern England) and thereby, the first to broadcast seven days a week.


The company soon gained a reputation for musical entertainment, variety, documentary films under Dr John Grierson, and sports coverage. It also sponsored Scottish Opera and televised live opera and ballet, networking more opera than similar television companies. Much of the station's early output was provided by ATV, under a ten-year deal worth £1 million per year. By 1965, ATV's senior producer Francis Essex had become Scottish's programming controller.

But the station had also gained a reputation for low budget, entertainment-driven programming. It was jokingly said that STV only owned two pieces of equipment; one telecine to show western films and another to show the commercials. Lord Thomson was also criticised, for using much of the profits generated by Scottish Television to further gain his interests in the newspaper industry, rather than reinvesting into the station.

In 1965, the chairman of the Independent Television Authority Charles Hill paid a visit to STV's Glasgow studios during which he observed an edition of the popular daytime entertainment show One O'clock Gang. So appalled by it, he personally axed the programme with the words "My God, how long have you been getting away with this?".

From the launch of the station, television for schools was pioneered in association with Glasgow Corporation, and post graduate television services initiated, including surgery, in conjunction with universities. Programmes were devised for the emerging countries in the British Commonwealth, and the Thomson Foundation was created to educate and train television producers, journalists and engineers, this operated from Kirkhill House - a bespoke studio complex near Newton Mearns. Programmes from TFTC (Thomson Foundation Television College) were never seen by STV's viewers, but much of STV's redundant equipment found a new home at the studios, including STV's first OB unit.

Although the early days of the ITV network were a financial gamble the STV service soon became profitable, resulting in Thomson's claim that 'running a commercial television station is like having a licence to print money'. In 1966, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange for the first time.

Scottish Television retained its franchise at the first time of asking in 1967, despite strong competition from a consortium led by the future BBC Director General Alasdair Milne and strong indications that the company would lose its franchise. In the event, Lord Thomson was forced by the ITA to reduce his stake in the station from 80% to 25%, effectively ending the company's standing as a subsidiary of the Thomson Group.


Like many franchises within the ITV network, Scottish struggled through the late 1960s and early 1970s with the recession, increased transmitter rental fees, taxation on income (rather than profits), a decline in advertising revenue, and the costs of converting equipment for the start of colour broadcasting (marked by the opening of the Gateway Theatre studios in Edinburgh). In 1970, the company made a loss of £39,000; a warning was given that regionalism would be abandoned, and a forced merger with Grampian Television would happen, unless the chancellor reduced the levy applied on advertising revenue.

By late 1971, STV's fortunes recovered after a change in taxation rules reducing the companies payments from £466,000 to £234,000, and a general increase in advertising saw profits rise to £475,000 within the first 6 months of 1971. A large proportion of the profits were spent on expanding the company's programming output. This was in part to resolve principal criticism about the station output, which included improved sports coverage, new dramas for Scottish writers, and enhanced local entertainment. With the increased amount of productions, STV had exceptions of becoming one of the major players in networking new programming for ITV2 (this was before Channel 4 was created, and the inception for ITV2 was discussed at that time which never came to fruition. This is not to be confused with the ITV2 which is now known on the digital platform). Managing Director William Brown remarked at the time: "One of the major factors in deciding to extend our activities, is the prospect of becoming nationally involved in the production of networked programmes for ITV2 if and when it begins".

In addition, STV were also seeking to consolidate their position to increase its partnership with foreign television stations. The company was associated with a public Israeli television company, who used STV's post-production facilities for dubbing foreign language programmes. STV were hoping to be invited to act as an advisor for commercial television in Israel.

The Company started work on building its new purpose-built complex in Cowcaddens, in early 1972. Original plans were to move to the Millerston area of Glasgow, costing £2m, but negotiations fell through in mid 1960. The Cowcaddens site was planned to be built in the late 1960s, but was put on hold because of STV's financial position. The company left the Glasgow base at the Theatre Royal in December 1974.

In 1975, a short term ITV Strike took place in the spring, due to a dispute over the payments agreed before the government-imposed pay freeze came into force. A 19% pay rise had been agreed between the ACTT (Association of Cinematograph Television and Allied Technicians) union, with the ITV companies in July 1974. The union alleged that £231 of this deal was still owed to its members, and should not have been affected by the pay freeze. The strike took place from 6.00 am on 23 May (except for London Weekend Television, Tyne Tees Television, and Westward Television, where ACTT members ignored the strike). At 6.00am on 26 May, when strike workers came back to work, they were locked out by management. Normal service resumed on 30 May for all ITV stations, except for Scottish Television, whose staff refused to return to work after the lockout finished on 29 May. Staff eventually returned on Monday 9 June In 1978, company profits had risen by 21.8% in the first six months of the year, allowing for an increase in local programming.

In the following twenty years, the company gained greater access to the national network, primarily through the soap opera Take the High Road and the long-running detective series Taggart. More recent contributions have included the quiz Wheel of Fortune and the adaptation of the Rebus crime books.


During the 1970s and 1980s, Scottish Television produced a wide range of religious programming including weekly church services, half-hour religious programmes on a Sunday, religious contributions to the new Channel 4, the ever-popular epilogue Late Call, and occasional documentaries, produced by Executive Producer Rev. Dr Nelson Gray, a Minister of the Congregational Church, and Rev. Eric Hudson, a Minister of the Church of Scotland but as the public service broadcasting requirement receded during the 1990s, the amount of religious programmes were gradually phased out.

In October 1981, Scottish Television became the first ITV station to operate a regional Oracle teletext service, containing over 60 pages of local news, sport and information.

As was industry-practice at the time, STV programming would either be totally studio-based, include film inserts where required (the local news programme Scotland Today and Take the High Road being early examples of this), or other completely film-based shows with no studio content. The company employed up to six film crews who could be assigned to providing filmed news coverage on a daily basis, football matches, or feature programming such as Redgauntlet or Weirs Way. Since the company originally went on air, images not provided electronically 'live' within the studio centre were provided via telecine machines, allowing the station to run local advertisements to fill the ad breaks within and on either side of local and networked programming. Local advertisements - where a single image was shown on screen whilst the continuity announcer read the promotional message 'live' – was sourced from a standard 35 mm slide.

Filmed inserts into local news added a significant delay to the airing of programmes. STV, having no film processing capability at Cowcaddens, sub-contracted this to a specialist company - Humphries Film Laboratories. Exposed film would be rushed to an industrial unit in North Glasgow to be processed and returned to Cowcaddens for the 16 mm film to be edited and prepared for transmission. This process often caused much annoyance to reporters and crews alike, as to ensure inclusion of a breaking story for the Scotland Today news segment, film had to reach the labs no later than 4.30 pm. By the early to mid-1980s and like much of ITV, STV had dispensed with 16 mm film and embraced electronic news gathering, with Sony's Betacam being the chosen system.

Gus Macdonald became the station's Director of Programmes during the summer of 1986. One of his first decisions was to revamp the station's regional news and features output, following criticism from an Independent Broadcasting Authority committee. Scottish's flagship evening programme Scotland Today had previously been revamped from a regional news programme into a topical magazine show supplemented by short bulletins. David Scott was brought in from BBC Scotland as the station's head of news and reverted Scotland Today back to a hard news format while long-running series including What's Your Problem? and Ways & Means were axed. Replacement programmes included the topical lunchtime show Live at One Thirty and social action series Scottish Action.


In 1990, Sir William Brown retired as managing director after 24 years of service, marking the longest serving chief executive in ITV history. He subsequently became chairman of Scottish Television plc from 1991 until 1996 Gus Macdonald became Managing Director, and started overhauling the workforce by cutting it from 800 to 330 - Macdonald claimed the company was employing many more people though most were now freelancers.

In early 1992, J. Nigel Pickard became controller of entertainment and drama features. When he transferred from the outgoing ITV company TVS, some of the station's children's programmes continued production under Scottish Television including Art Attack and How 2. Pickard was based at an office in Maidstone (where many of Scottish's new acquisitions were produced) until 1995, but he left the company in 1993. This in turned spurred Scottish Television to build on its Children's output, with a wave of new series with co production with other media companies.

After retaining its franchise in 1991 unopposed, STV's production arm was placed into a separate company, "Scottish Television Enterprises", which became one of the largest suppliers of children's programmes in Europe. The company invested shares in various ITV companies and media firms, including a 25% stake in GMTV as part of a consortium for the ITV breakfast franchise (STV's stake was sold off to ITV plc in 2004 for £31 million), ITN and UTV, which helped push profits up to £10m, with the group expecting further real growth in advertising income, even after the internal reconstruction of its core staff. The company itself acquired new inverters when in 1994 the Mirror Group brought 20% stake in company, In September 1995, STV acquired a 20% stake in HTV worth £36 million, as part of a deal with Flextech which allowed for an enlarged Scottish Television, with Flextech holding a 20% stake while the Mirror Group stake was diluted to 16%. The deal also involved David Montgomery, chief executive of Mirror Group, and Two Flextech executives, joined the STV board, while Flextech committed to license more than 125 hours of drama and documentaries from STV. Within a month of the deal, the Mirror Group managed to increase its stake to 19.93%.

In 1996, the HTV shares were sold off to the Wales and West contractor's future owners United News and Media. For a short time, STV became a buyout target for Yorkshire Television. STV acquired Caledonian Publishing, who published The Herald and Glasgow Evening Times in July 1996. A year later in June 1997, Scottish Media Group plc acquired Grampian Television, the ITV contractor for Northern Scotland, for £105 million. Shortly afterwards, the company became SMG.

In April 1998, Scottish formed a new partnership with Canadian entertainment company Nelvana, to help create six animated series, with Scottish having a significant creative input in the production of all their shows. Scottish Television Enterprises general manager Darrel James, who oversaw the deal, says: ‘[ It ] came together in a surprisingly short time. We have worked very successfully with Nelvana on the Rupert series in the past. So when they came and asked us if we wanted to get involved, we said `yes’ almost immediately. It is not often that you get the opportunity to work on such a high volume of co-produced material at one time.’ The new shows produced were: Franklin, Anatole, The Dumb Bunnies, Flying Rhino Junior High, Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend and Birdz. In November Scottish doubled the funding for kids programming and to expand its brand with a raft of new programmes.

In the summer of 1998 there was speculation that STV's 20% stake in GMTV would be sold off to help raise cash for new acquisitions in England, since the company continued to have no debt and could easily afford new purchases. A few months later, Gus Macdonald left the company to become a Scottish Trade minister. In 1999 Mirror Group sold its stake to Granada


On 2 March 2006, it was announced by SMG plc (now 'STV Group plc') that Scottish Television would revert to the brand name of 'STV', used from the start of colour broadcasting in 1969 until 30 August 1985, and which the station was still informally known as. At the same time, Grampian Television would also become known as STV North. The new-look branding was launched on 30 May 2006.

In January 2007, the station launched separate news services for the East and West of the STV Central region, initially as a five-minute opt out within the 6:00 pm edition of Scotland Today on weeknights.


Regional news coverage was expanded again in May 2011 with the launch of separate half-hour editions of STV News at Six for the East and West and localised late night news bulletins each weeknight.

STV were awarded local TV licences in January 2013 to operate two digital television channels in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively, for up to 12 years. STV Glasgow launched on Monday 2 June 2014 with an expanded schedule of local news, features and entertainment programming. STV Edinburgh launched on 12 January 2015. Existing regional news bulletins continue to air on the main STV Central service.


From the station's launch in 1957 until 1974, Scottish Television used the Theatre Royal, Glasgow on Hope Street as their main studio base and headquarters. Secondary studios at the Gateway Theatre on Leith Walk in Edinburgh were built in 1969 to accommodate more productions. The new facilities at Edinburgh grew in importance after a fire at the Glasgow studios on 3 November 1969 gutted Studio A and several production suites and took the life of a fireman.

Scottish's main base moved in 1974 to custom built facilities on Renfield Street in Cowcaddens on land opposite the Theatre Royal site. Construction began on the new base in 1972 and it was officially opened on 12 December 1974 by Princess Alexandra, and was expanded to accommodate further production in 1978. Following the completion of the new studio complex, the Theatre Royal was sold to Scottish Opera to become the first national opera house in Scotland, and the home of Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

Cowcaddens became Scottish's main studio base where the majority of their productions were based. However, with the growing use of independent production companies as a source of programming, the need for increased studio space was alleviated. New Scottish programming, such as Art Attack and How 2 from TVS was being made at the Maidstone Studios, where these programmes were formally based. As a cost-saving measure the Gateway Theatre studios in Edinburgh, which for a time became the permanent studio home for Take the High Road were closed in 1994.

In 2006, the newly rebranded STV moved from their Cowcaddens base to a new, smaller building at Pacific Quay alongside the headquarters of BBC Scotland. As a result of the move, the entire Cowcaddens site, with the exception of an extension containing The Herald and Glasgow Evening Times newspapers, was demolished and redeveloped in 2007. STV's Edinburgh operations are now based at small studios in Fountainbridge.


Scottish Television's first on-air symbol featured the Lion Rampant of Scotland. Initially a static caption, an animated ident was introduced by 1965 in which the lion would spin inside a box, though this later modified as a simple zoom in following, according to some reports, a complaint from The Lord Lyon King of Arms, the man in charge of protecting Scotland's heraldry. The station's first theme was a specially composed piece by Geraldo entitled Scotlandia, which began each day's broadcasting - the theme continued to be heard until August 1985.

After the start of colour broadcasting, the lion rampant symbol was replaced within a year by a stylised 'STV' logo. The solid STV lettering would be met by an outline of the lettering and the background would turn blue once both had met, accompanied by a trumpeted fanfare. Throughout the 1970s and up until 1985, this stylised STV was used as either a static caption, or form up from a pattered design that was supposed to represent tartan. Accompanying the look was a clock against a blue background with the white STV logo forming a pattern across the screen.

On 31 August 1985, the station revived the 'Scottish Television' branding and introduced a computer generated thistle ident designed by Martin Lambie Nairn. Occasional special idents were also produced including a modified logo to mark the station's 30th anniversary in 1987, while the main ident was largely replaced in January 1988 in favour of a new set of seasonal and themed idents, including "88 on Scottish", "Water effort over the thistle" etc. but the 1985 clock was kept in use. The thistle logo was modified on 2 January 1989 to create a 2D identity which would remain in use until 27 February 2000, under various guises, updated on 1 January 1993 and on 6 October 1996. Scottish did use the first national ITV ident from 1 September 1989 but used it in conjunction with its own branding but this was dropped by November/December 1989.

Scottish refused to adopt the 1999 ITV generic look and instead, alongside Grampian Television, launched a new on-screen logo on 28 February 2000, featuring a blue square with the words 'Scottish TV' - a new set of 15 ident sequences featuring Scottish people and places was produced as part of the revamp. The presentation package remained in use until 6 January 2003, when Scottish and Grampian adopted the celebrity idents package, albeit with their own logos attached and also featuring Scottish and Grampian presenters.

The celebrity look remained until 2006, when the Scottish and Grampian names were traded in for one unified look: STV. The first ident package featured an elongated blue 'S', with scenes of Scottish people in various locations passing around the 'S' from person to person in differing scenes, until one person places the S in the centre of the screen. An updated look was introduced on 23 March 2009, consisting of a picture postcard scene which would flip over to the right to reveal another theme. This flipping increases in pace and as the camera pulls back before the STV logo forms against a gradient blue background.

On 2 June 2014, STV's logo was unified, along with Grampian's. The white "tv" is now situated on a gradient blue triangle, and three light blue curves now appear on the 3 sides. The "S"' colours was changed to gradient light blue.


A list of programmes made by Scottish Television. All programmes now come under the banner of STV Productions.


Scottish Television Wikipedia

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