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Independent Broadcasting Authority

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Independent Broadcasting Authority
PredecessorIndependent Television Authority
Formation12 July 1972; 51 years ago (1972-07-12)
Defunct31 December 1990; 33 years ago (1990-12-31)
HeadquartersKnightsbridge, London, England

The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was the regulatory body in the United Kingdom for commercial television (ITV and Channel 4 and limited satellite television regulation – cable television was the responsibility of the Cable Authority) – and commercial and independent radio broadcasts.[1] The IBA came into being when the Sound Broadcasting Act 1972 gave the Independent Television Authority responsibility for organising the new Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations. The Independent Television Commission formally replaced the IBA on 1 January 1991 in regulatory terms; however, the authority itself was not officially dissolved until 2003.[2]

The IBA appointed and regulated a number of regional programme TV contractors and local radio contractors, and built and operated the network of transmitters distributing these programmes through its Engineering Division. It established and part-funded a National Broadcasting School to train on-air and engineering staff.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    5 315
    6 498
    4 427
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    3 249
  • IBA/ITA - Story Of A Network
  • IBA Engineering Announcements - 3 May 1983 'Cable TV and EIS Move to C4'
  • IBA Engineering Announcements - 23 October 1984 'Channel 4 Progress Report'
  • IBA Engineering Announcements - 17 March 1987 'High Definition Television'
  • IBA/INA/SRT - An Introduction To Satellite Broadcasting & The MAC Systems



The IBA's approach to regulation was more robust than that of its successors, and it assumed the ultimate role of the broadcaster (whereas today, TV licensees are termed "broadcasters in their own right"). The IBA took a very "hands-on" approach and placed the interests of the viewer before anything else. For example, if two ITV licensees wanted to merge, or another wanted to change its broadcast name, this would require approval by the IBA. This direct approach also extended to programmes; the IBA could (and did) place limits on how many soap episodes could be shown per week,[citation needed] if they believed programme quality would be compromised.

As well as setting guidelines on advertising content (some guidelines only, the remainder being the responsibility of the ASA), quantity and timings, the IBA also operated monitoring systems for the quality of programme content and the technical quality of programme play-out.

On 19 January 1972, the British government announced the lifting of all restrictions and limits on the number of broadcasting hours per day that both the BBC and ITV could air. Until 1972, both the BBC and ITV were limited to how many normal programming hours they could air during the course of each day – by 1971 it was limited to 8 hours per day, with exemptions for schools, adult educational, religious programming, state occasions and outdoor sporting coverage.

For ITV this meant they could start a proper daytime television schedule, allowing the smaller ITV companies to produce and sell programming to the network. The IBA ensured that along with the new daytime schedules which launched on Monday 16 October 1972 that their public service remit programming would continue after the restrictions were lifted. Schools programming were now placed in a new 2.5 hour slot each weekday from 9.30am along with the continued production of religious programming and adult education.[3]

There were also limits on the value of prizes that could be given away – this dated from the broadcast of the UK version of Twenty-One in 1958 in which a contestant won enough money to buy both a car and a house.[4] In 1960, two years after the quiz show scandals in America, the Independent Television Authority (predecessor of the IBA) imposed a £1,000 cap on the value of prizes which increased to £1,250 during the late 1970s with an occasional limit of £2,000 which rose to £2,500 by 1981. From 1981 to 1988, weekly winnings could average no more than £1,750. On occasion, said limit could increase to £3,500 over a course of four weeks. From 1989 to 1992, weekly winnings could not average more than £5,000 per individual contestant or £6,000 in total winnings per week. British versions of popular American quiz shows had to be adjusted – The $64,000 Question having a maximum prize initially of 64,000 sixpences (£1,600) in the late 1950s, and in the early 1990s of just £6,400. "The Six Thousand Four Hundred Pound Question" was only asked every other week, so as not to break the regulatory £6,000/week maximum. The Independent Television Commission abolished such limits in 1993.

Throughout its history until just before its demise, the IBA put out a short weekly programme under the title Engineering Announcements, transmitted outside normal programme hours, and not otherwise advertised. These provided valuable technical information for members of the radio and television trade. These broadcasts were shown on ITV until May 1983 after which they were shown on Channel 4 and S4C,[5] with the final broadcast taking place on 31 July 1990.[6]

1980 franchise round

Regional programming on ITV was a major concern for the IBA, particularly in the 1980 franchise round. The IBA was determined each franchise provided the best possible local service, so the South of England transmission region was split in two, with the successful applicant required to provide separate news services for the South and South East, while in the Midlands ATV's commitment to regional output in the Midlands had been a long-running issue for the IBA; in 1980, they were allowed to keep their franchise, but with several tough conditions.

Engineering advances

Rendition of EBU/IBA 100/0/75/0 Colour Bars pattern, later standardised as ITU-R BT.471-1.[7][8][9]

The Experimental and Development Department, as part of the IBA's Engineering Division, was responsible for much leading-edge research into broadcasting technology as well as being responsible for the design and manufacture of specialist equipment that could not be procured from commercial manufacturers. In particular, the IBA's E&D Department developed SABRE (Steerable Adaptable Broadcast Receiving Equipment) that enabled mainland broadcast television channels to be received for re-broadcasting in the Channel Islands. During the early 1980s, the E&D Department designed and manufactured the specialised broadcast receiving and monitoring equipment used to build the national broadcast network for Channel Four. Subsequently, E&D's engineers proposed a system of analogue television encoding known as MAC (Multiplexed Analogue Component) to provide a standard for the forthcoming satellite television broadcasts that was more robust than an extension of the existing PAL system used for terrestrial broadcasts. E&D's engineers also designed and built some of the first digital audio equipment for satellite broadcasting including systems using data packets. E&D's engineers made many important contributions to digital television data-rate reduction whereby the encoding of a standard analogue PAL colour signal requiring some 130 Megabits/second has been reduced to less than 4 Megabits/second as used on current digital television broadcasting.

Satellite broadcasting

In the late 1980s the IBA was appointed as regulator and transmitter operator for the first DBS (direct broadcasting by satellite) service for the UK and awarded the franchise to BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting).[10] A year before the launch of BSB, the rival Sky Television was able to launch an analogue service, and intended to overshadow BSB by leasing transponders from Société Européenne des Satellites' RCA Astro-built satellite, Astra 1A. Just over six months after BSB's launch, Sky merged with BSB.


The IBA was disbanded as part of the Broadcasting Act 1990, being replaced on New Year's Day 1991 by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) (which also absorbed the Cable Authority), and the Radio Authority (RAu), which have since been merged with other regulators such as the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) and Oftel (Office of Telecommunications) to form one regulator, Ofcom. All of the IBA's engineering function, except for a limited number of quality control engineers, was transferred to a newly set-up private company, National Transcommunications Limited (NTL), which continued to run the former IBA transmitter masts. These assets are now within the portfolio operated by Arqiva. In 2008 the IBA's extensive archive was lodged with the University of Bournemouth.[11]

The IBA's membership of the European Broadcasting Union was passed to United Kingdom Independent Broadcasting (UKIB).

Such was the sense of purpose and camaraderie amongst former employees of the IBA that they still meet up near Winchester for an annual reunion in late January, typically boasting an attendance of over fifty.[citation needed]

Technical publications and legacy

The engineering staff of the IBA contributed many papers to international standards groups and conferences over many years. The IBA also operated an Engineering Information service in support of the receiver industry and the general public offering information and advice about the transmitter networks and reception issues. Its lasting legacy is a set of IBA Technical Reviews published over a period of 16 years from 1972 to 1988. The complete set of these reviews, as well as some other documents and records, is available for free download.[12]

The reviews were primarily written by the technical staff of the IBA but some articles were written by others from the Independent Television companies and by external specialists. The first volume was published in September 1972 when the Engineering Division was located in Brompton Road, London prior to its move to Crawley Court near Winchester in 1973. Other members of the Division staffed the transmitting stations and maintenance bases spread across the UK. The series ended with the 24th volume published in November 1988. One reason for the termination of the publications was the abolition of the IBA in 1990 and the subsequent privatisation of the Engineering activities as National Transcommunications Limited [NTL]; the government white paper proposing this was published in the autumn of 1988.

These reviews are valuable in recording the activities of the various departments of the division during a period of considerable change in broadcasting. IBA staff members were active not only in designing, building and operating transmitter networks they also made significant contributions to new digital broadcasting standards and their implementation. The laboratories of the IBA were in the forefront of the development of digital television technology, as can be seen in some of the reviews but, after the abolition of the IBA, NTL continued to contribute significantly to the development and implementation of the successor technology that underlies modern Freeview transmissions.

Copyright in these documents originally vested in the IBA. On its abolition, its assets were distributed between the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and NTL, each of which has subsequently been absorbed by other bodies. The ITC was absorbed by Ofcom and the original NTL has evolved into an independent company, Arqiva. The copyright is now vested in Ofcom.

Volume Title Publication Date
1 Measurement and Control September 1972
2 Technical Reference Book Edition 1: September 1972. Edition 2: July 1974. Edition 3: May 1977
3 Digital Television June 1973
4 Television Transmitting Stations September 1974
5 Independent Local Radio September 1974
6 Transmitter Operation and Maintenance April 1976
7 Service Planning and Propagation July 1976
8 Digital Video Processing - DICE September 1976
9 Digital Television Developments September 1976
10 A Broadcasting Engineer's Vade Mecum May 1977 (Reprinted March 1979)
11 Satellites for Broadcasting July 1978
12 Techniques for Digital Television January 1979
13 Standards for Television and Local Radio Stations September 1980
14 Latest Developments in Sound Broadcasting June 1981
15 Microelectronics in Broadcast Engineering October 1981
16 Digital Coding Standards March 1982
17 Developments in Radio Frequency Techniques March 1982
18 Standards for Satellite Broadcasting March 1982
19 Technical Training in Independent Broadcasting June 1982
20 Developments in Teletext May 1983
21 Compatible Higher Definition Television November 1983
22 Light and Colour Principles November 1984
23 Developments in Aerials for Broadcasting March 1986
24 The D-Mac/Packet System for Satellite and Cable November 1988

Notable Independent Broadcasting Authority locations

Former IBA headquarters in London as pictured in April 1997, now occupied by Ofcom.
Crawley Court as pictured in May 1998.

Notable IBA locations included:

  • Headquarters in 70 Brompton Road, London SW3
  • Engineering Division Headquarters at Crawley Court, near Winchester, Hampshire (division novated to Virgin Media, building now used as Arqiva HQ)
  • the transmission sites now belonging to Arqiva
  • the BSB satellite uplink at Chilworth, Hampshire (now a playout/uplink site for Sky UK)
  • Engineering Regional Operations Centres at
    1. Beulah Hill, Croydon
    2. Black Hill, near Shotts, Lanarkshire
    3. St. Hilary, near Cardiff
    4. Emley Moor, near Huddersfield
  • Harman Engineering Training College, Seaton, Devon

Notable ex-IBA employees

Notable ex-IBA employees include: John Whitney (Director General 1982-89), Gareth Mitchell, Julian Prictoe, Nic Robertson


  Denotes Acting Chairman
Portrait Name
Term of office Honour(s) Prime Minister Monarch
The Baron Aylestone
11 July 1972 31 March 1975 Edward Heath Queen Elizabeth II
Harold Wilson
Bridget Plowden
1 April 1975 31 December 1980
James Callaghan
Margaret Thatcher
The Baron Thomson of Monifieth
1 January 1981 31 December 1988
George Russell
1 January 1989 31 December 1990


IBA organisational evolution

Communications regulation and maintenance
Preceded by Operation and maintenance of ITV, ILR and Channel 4 transmitters
12 July 1972 – 31 December 1990
Succeeded by
Regulation of ITV
12 July 1972 – 31 December 1990
Succeeded by
New creation Regulation of Channel 4
2 November 1982 – 31 December 1990
Regulation of satellite television
1986 – 31 December 1990
Regulation of Independent Local Radio
12 July 1972 – 31 December 1990
Succeeded by


  1. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica - Independent Broadcasting". Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  2. ^ "The Dissolution of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Order 2003". 2 October 2003. Archived from the original on 20 September 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2014. The Independent Broadcasting Authority are hereby dissolved with effect from 2nd October 2003
  3. ^ "TELEVISION AND RADIO BROADCASTING (Hansard, 19 January 1972)". Archived from the original on 24 July 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Evolution". Transdiffusion. 3 September 2005. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014. a contestant on "Twenty One" ... [won] £5,580 in 1958 – enough at the time to buy a house and a car.
  5. ^ Transdiffusion Broadcasting System (3 September 2015). "☆ Last IBA Engineering Announcements on ITV – 17 May 1983". Archived from the original on 20 December 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2018 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ bayside2000 (4 September 2015). "IBA Engineering Announcements Last Edition 31st July 1990". Archived from the original on 20 December 2021. Retrieved 26 August 2018 – via YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Channel 6 Television Denmark – Test patterns (English)". 14 December 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  8. ^ "Photographic image of colour bars" (JPG). Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  9. ^ "RECOMMENDATION ITU-R BT.471-1* – Nomenclature and description of colour bar signals" (PDF). Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  10. ^ Transdiffusion Broadcasting System (2 June 2012). "BSB contract award – December 1986". Archived from the original on 2 September 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2018 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ "ITA/IBA/Cable Authority archive". Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014. The [ITA/IBA/Cable] archive remained in the custody of OFCOM until transfer to Bournemouth University in 2008
  12. ^ "NTL Pension Association". Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  13. ^ Potter, Jeremy (17 January 1989). Independent Television in Britain: Volume 3. Springer. ISBN 9781349063352. Archived from the original on 14 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020.

This page was last edited on 22 June 2024, at 20:15
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