|Launched 31 October 1959|
Country United Kingdom
Owned by ITV plc
Headquarters Havelock House, Belfast
|Picture format 576i (SDTV)1080i (HDTV)|
Audience share ITV Network:13.27%0.86% (+1)2.67% (HD) (November 2015 (2015-11), BARB)
TV shows UTV Live, Coronation Street, ITV Weekend News, Emmerdale, This Morning
UTV (formerly Ulster Television) is a commercial television broadcaster in Northern Ireland owned and operated by ITV plc as part of the ITV Network. Formed in November 1958 and appointed as programme contractor for the Independent Television Authority soon after, UTV became the first indigenous broadcaster in Northern Ireland.
- Notable programmes shown on the ITV network
- Identity and presentation
- Continuity announcers
- Station theme tunes
- UTV HD
- UTV 1
- UTV Ireland
UTV can be watched via the following methods:
The main transmitters which broadcast UTV's digital signals are based at Divis transmitting station outside Belfast, Limavady transmitting station in County Londonderry and Brougher Mountain transmitting station in County Tyrone. Each transmitter has a series of relay stations.
UTV was the last of the ITV stations to cease broadcasting on analogue transmitters. The analogue signal was closed at just after 11:35 pm on Tuesday 23 October 2012.
The governing body of the Independent Television network, the Independent Television Authority, first advertised the franchise for Northern Ireland in September 1958. Two consortia applied for the franchise; one led by the Duke of Abercorn and supported by The Belfast Telegraph and The Northern Whig newspapers, the other led by the Earl of Antrim and supported by The News Letter and Sir Laurence Olivier. The ITA eventually persuaded both applicants to merge their bids to obtain the new franchise, on the provision that a greater stake of investment in the station was offered to Catholic sources.
With the ITA request met, the group, under the name Ulster Television Limited, set out their plans for broadcasting; initially, the station would try to provide 20 minutes of locally sourced programmes per day, and the company arranged with ABC Television to sell advertising time and to maintain their studio premises at a former hemstitching warehouse in Havelock House on the Ormeau Road in Belfast.
Ulster Television went on air at 4.45pm on Saturday 31 October 1959. The station's opening was overseen by Lord Wakehurst, then Governor of Northern Ireland, and Sir Laurence Olivier introduced the opening ceremony. The station's first night of programming, introduced by duty announcer Adrienne McGuill, featured networked series such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and 77 Sunset Strip, two news bulletins from ITN and the 1949 feature film Task Force. Sir Laurence Olivier delivered the station's first epilogue, an excerpt from Joseph Addison's "The Spacious Firmament".
The following evening, UTV contributed a play to the Armchair Theatre series, "A Shilling for the Evil Day", produced in association with ABC Television. Earlier in the day, the station broadcast its first unofficial colour production – a film of images from across Northern Ireland was broadcast entitled Ulster Rich and Rare, produced by Lord Wakehurst.
At launch, Ulster Television employed a staff of 100 people including six presenters: Ivor Mills and Anne Gregg were chosen as the presenters of local magazine programme Roundabout, Adrienne McGuill, James Greene and Brian Durkin were the first continuity announcers, and former rugby union international Ernest Strathdee was recruited as the station's sports presenter.
Initially, Ulster Television's programmes would only be available to viewers located within range of the Black Mountain transmitter near Belfast. On the station's first night of programmes however, it was reported that some residents of Dublin, located over 100 miles away, had called the station to report poor picture reception. Coverage of UTV spread to Western areas of Northern Ireland when the Strabane transmitter opened in February 1963.
Ulster Television's UHF PAL colour service was launched with the opening of the UHF transmitter Divis in September 1970. This was followed by two additional transmitters at Limavady (opened in 1975) and Brougher Mountain (in 1978). In the early 1980s it broadcast reduced hours when no schools programmes were being broadcast coming on air at 12 noon during the week, and closing down every evening at 23:30 - this remained in place until 1982. In October 1988, the station began 24-hour broadcasting - the last station in the ITV network to do so. UTV was originally scheduled to take a service provided by Central in Birmingham, but a late minute decision to switch to Granada Television's sustaining feed, Night Time, led to a month-long delay.
At the company's annual general meeting in Belfast on 26 May 2006, the registered company name was changed from 'Ulster Television plc' to 'UTV plc'. The company believed that the existing name no longer reflected the full scope of the company's business. In a further change in October 2007, UTV underwent a corporate reorganisation which saw UTV shareholders swap their shares for shares in a new holding company, UTV Media plc, which took over UTV plc's shareholdings in the new media and radio subsidiaries. UTV Ltd. – the original Ulster Television Limited, now a wholly owned subsidiary of UTV Media – returned to being solely the operating company for the ITV franchise.
On 19 October 2015, UTV Media announced that it would sell its ITV franchise and the UTV brand to ITV plc for £100 million, subject to regulatory approval. ITV CEO Adam Crozier welcomed the news by saying:
The acquisition, finalised the following February, left STV Group as the only remaining independent owner of ITV franchises. ITV plans to retain the UTV brand in Northern Ireland, and not re-brand it under a standardised name (such as "ITV Northern Ireland"). On 11 July 2016, ITV plc announced that it would sell the UTV Ireland service to Virgin Media Ireland (which had bought Ireland's TV3 in 2015).
The former UTV Media group was restructured and rebranded as The Wireless Group, retaining its radio assets until June 2016, when the company was brought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. In July 2016, ITV plc sold UTV Ireland to Virgin Media Ireland - a subsidiary of Liberty Media - for €10 million.
In October 2016, ITV announced plans to close UTV's Havelock House studios and move to a new HD-equipped broadcast centre elsewhere in Belfast in early 2018.
Notable programmes shown on the ITV network
Identity and presentation
Since 1959, Ulster Television/UTV have used different logos, or idents on-screen:
UTV is the only ITV plc-owned station to retain local continuity announcers, albeit pre-recorded. As of October 2016, playout and presentation for the channel originates from Ericsson's transmission centre in Chiswick, which provides services for most of ITV's channels.
UTV was the last company in the ITV network to retain in-vision continuity announcements, where the duty announcer appeared on-camera to introduce the evening's programmes. In later years, local continuity was generally restricted to evenings with in-vision links presented at weekends by senior announcer Julian Simmons. In 2009, the practice was restored to weekday evenings and presented by the entire announcing team.
The last live in-vision announcement was made by Simmons at 11.15pm on Sunday 16 October 2016, marking the end of 57 years of transmission originating from Havelock House.
Station theme tunes
In common with the rest of the ITV Network, the station aired specially composed signature tunes as part of its daily start-up routine. From launch until 1971, the opening theme was Seamus by the American musician, composer and bandleader Van Phillips, who had earlier written the theme tune of the popular 1950s BBC radio science fiction drama Journey Into Space. UTV's best known theme was The Antrim Road, a classical symphony composed by Wayne Hill and Earl Ward, which was used between 1971 and 1983. It originally featured on The British Isles, an LP of orchestral arrangements of traditional and characteristic national tunes of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The album was released on the De Wolf label in 1971.
UTV HD, a simulcast of UTV in high-definition, launched on Virgin Media channel 113 on 5 October 2010. On 5 March 2012, UTV Media announced it had signed new network arrangements for the provision of Channel 3 programmes and services with ITV plc. Included in the agreement is a deal which ensured the distribution of UTV HD on Freeview when the digital switchover took place on 24 October 2012 and on Sky and Freesat on 4 November 2013.
Originally UTV's acquisition and presentation infrastructure was SD only; all HD content was line-fed to UTV in Belfast from Technicolor Network Services' transmission facility at Chiswick Park, with UTV's presentation and local content being upscaled and switched into the transmission chain for UTV HD using a simple A/B switcher.
In May 2011, the presentation infrastructure was upgraded to become fully HD-capable in readiness for the digital switchover in 2012.
On 4 January 2011, Freeview announced details for the launch of ITV1+1, together with the possibility that both STV and UTV will launch their own timeshift services, STV +1 and UTV +1 in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. UTV later confirmed that it would launch UTV +1 at 8 pm on 11 January 2011. The channel is available to Freeview viewers on channel 33 and Virgin Media cable customers on channel 114. The channel is not currently available on the Freesat and Sky satellite services.
UTV Ireland was a sister station to UTV's Northern Ireland service, broadcasting to the Republic of Ireland. The new channel launched on 1 January 2015, following approval by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. UTV Ireland was broadcast from the company's Dublin base at Macken House and carried a large amount of ITV's networked programming (including Emmerdale and Coronation Street, previously broadcast by TV3, alongside some bespoke programming, including Ireland Live, a twice nightly national news programme airing at 5.30 pm and 10 pm. In July 2016, the channel was sold to TV3 Group and was rebranded as be3 on 9 January 2017. The channel now forms part of a line-up of three channels run by the company and focuses on children's and female-orientated programming.