ITV, originally known as Independent Television, is a commercial television network of Great Britain. It was originally created in 1954 and went on the air in London on September 22, 1955 as a second commercial network in competition with the BBC. The network was originally set up as a set of franchises distributed throughout the nation; each franchise would create programmings for distribution both for locals of each franchise area and programs that, in some cases, would be ultimately distributed throughout the nation and throughout the world. The franchises would hold on to their region for a limited period of time until bidding would become available for the next franchise period; in some cases, a franchise can be lost and replaced by another company and another franchise. As of 2004, series of consolidations of regions and companies would culminate with the creation of one "network" for the entire nation with a majority control in two companies: Carlton and Granada.
Association with The Muppets
The most notable ITV connection to Jim Henson and the Muppets is the franchise of Associated TeleVision, owned and controlled by television entrepreneur Lew Grade. ATV initially started as the franchisee of the Midlands area of England during the week with a London franchise on the weekend; it is through the London franchise in the 1960s that ATV was able to base themselves at studios in the London suburb of Elstree. However, after the franchise decision of 1968, ATV became full-week Midlands with the abandonment of the London franchise; however the Elstree studios remained in their hands. ATV remained the franchisee of the Midlands until pressure for a more Midlands-oriented service from ITV's then-regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), forced a reorganization and the removal of Grade's involvement after December 31, 1981, creating Central Independent Television.
The Muppets initially appeared on ATV through various variety show appearances, many of which were distributed in the United States via ITC Entertainment, which controlled international distribution. These appearances included The Julie Andrews Hour and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. After initial problems in getting The Muppet Show an American producer and distributor, Henson was able to get Grade to make the show, with the show part of the ATV lineup airing at different times throughout Britain due to the then-cooperative nature of ITV, which meant different regional companies would broadcast shows from each other at different times (over the years, the consolidation of the ITV network has meant this practice has largely been stopped). Hence, all British air dates are based on the ATV airings in the Midlands when guides list them.
Another notable ITV franchise associated with the Muppets was Television South (TVS), which controlled the franchise of Southern England from 1982 to 1993. This franchise was the main creator of the British segments and co-production of Fraggle Rock.