Independent Television Authority

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The Independent Television Authority (ITA) was the regulator of the UK's first commercial television network, established by the Television Act 1954. It closely regulated the new commercial channel in the interests of good taste, and awarded franchises to commercial companies for fixed terms.



The ITA held its first meeting at the headquarters of the General Post Office in St. Martins-le-Grand. In its first year it held 35 formal meetings mostly at the Arts Council in St James's Square. Its first offices were in a temporary structure in Woods Mews off Park Lane. It was not until August 1955 that it moved to 14 Princes Gate which was to be its elegant abode for the next six years.[1]

Sir Robert Fraser, the ITA's first Director General

On 14 September 1954, the ten-member committee appointed Sir Robert Fraser as Director General of the ITA. The 50 year-old Australian had come to Britain in the 1920s to study at the London School of Economics, at that time widely regarded as a breeding ground of left-wing socialism. He became leader writer for the Daily Herald newspaper and might have made a political career had he succeeded in 1935 in being elected as a Labour MP. He joined the wartime Ministry of Information, where, as head of the Publications Division, he was responsible for the enormously successful series of MOI booklets about major aspects of the war. In 1947 he became Director General of the Central Office of Information. He did not spontaneously seek to become the ITA's Director General, but was persuaded to do so. Fraser took up his appointment at once, but he did so in an atmosphere of hostility in the Tory press because of his Socialist antecedents.[2]

Key dates


  • 30 July: Television Act reached the Statute Book
  • 4 Aug: ITA held its first meeting at the headquarters of the General Post Office in St Martins-le-Grand, London

The first commercial franchises were awarded in 1954, and commercial television started broadcasting in stages between 1955 and 1962.


  • Aug: Headquarters moves to 14 Princes Gate, an elegant building which it would occupy for the next six years.
  • 22 Sep: Independent television began in London.


  1. Bernard Sendall, Independent Television in Britain, Volume 1, 59.
  2. Sendall, Independent Television in Britain, Vol 1, 1946–62, 61-2.