Independent Broadcasting Authority
The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was the regulatory body in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 for commercial
Commercial broadcasting
Commercial broadcasting is the broadcasting of television programs and radio programming by privately owned corporate media, as opposed to state sponsorship...

Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 and Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 and limited satellite television
Satellite television
Satellite television is television programming delivered by the means of communications satellite and received by an outdoor antenna, usually a parabolic mirror generally referred to as a satellite dish, and as far as household usage is concerned, a satellite receiver either in the form of an...

 regulation - cable
Cable television
Cable television is a system of providing television programs to consumers via radio frequency signals transmitted to televisions through coaxial cables or digital light pulses through fixed optical fibers located on the subscriber's property, much like the over-the-air method used in traditional...

  was the responsibility of the Cable Authority
Cable Authority
The Cable Authority was the United Kingdom statutory body established by the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984 to regulate the newly liberalised cable television industry. It came into existence on 1 December 1984 and took on its functions with effect from 1 January 1985...

) - and commercial/independent radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 broadcasts. The IBA came into being when the Sound Broadcasting Act 1972 gave the Independent Television Authority
Independent Television Authority
The Independent Television Authority was an agency created by the Television Act 1954 to supervise the creation of "Independent Television" , the first commercial television network in the United Kingdom...

 responsibility for organising the new Independent Local Radio (ILR) stations.

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.


The IBA's approach to regulation was more robust than 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 extended to programmes also; the IBA could (and did) place limits on how many soap
Soap opera
A soap opera, sometimes called "soap" for short, is an ongoing, episodic work of dramatic fiction presented in serial format on radio or as television programming. The name soap opera stems from the original dramatic serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers, such as Procter & Gamble,...

 episodes could be shown per week, if they believed programme quality would be compromised.

The IBA set guidelines on the content of advertising and imposed strict limits on the quantity and timing of advertisements.

The IBA also operated monitoring systems for the quality of programme content and the technical quality of programme play-out.

Other regulation included a limit on the value of prizes that could be given away in television game shows. This resulted in British versions of popular American quiz show The $64,000 Question
The $64,000 Question (UK game show)
The $64,000 Question is a UK game show based on the US format of the same name that originally ran from 19 May 1956 to 18 January 1958 produced by ATV and was originally hosted by Jerry Desmonde, and called simply The 64,000 Question with the top prize initially being 64,000 sixpences , later...

 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 format being adjusted so that "The Six Thousand Four Hundred Pound Question" was only asked every other week so as not to break the regulatory £3,200/week maximum.

Regional programming on ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 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.

Associated TeleVision
Associated Television, often referred to as ATV, was a British television company, holder of various licences to broadcast on the ITV network from 24 September 1955 until 00:34 on 1 January 1982...

'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; that the company was substantially restructured, their Elstree
Elstree is a village in the Hertsmere borough of Hertfordshire on the A5 road, about 10 miles north of London. In 2001, its population was 4,765, and forms part of the civil parish of Elstree and Borehamwood, originally known simply as Elstree....

 production base relocated to Nottingham
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England. It is located in the ceremonial county of Nottinghamshire and represents one of eight members of the English Core Cities Group...

 and the company rebranded to reflect its increased commitment to the Midlands. The new name, chosen apparently in a viewer competition, was Central Independent Television
Central Independent Television
Central Independent Television, more commonly known as Central is the Independent Television contractor for the Midlands, created following the restructuring of ATV and commencing broadcast on 1 January 1982. The station is owned and operated by ITV plc, under the licensee of ITV Broadcasting...


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 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.

In the late 1980s the IBA was appointed as regulator and transmitter operator for the first DBS (Direct Broadcasting by Satellite
Direct broadcast satellite
Direct broadcast satellite is a term used to refer to satellite television broadcasts intended for home reception.A designation broader than DBS would be direct-to-home signals, or DTH. This has initially distinguished the transmissions directly intended for home viewers from cable television...

) service for the UK and awarded the franchise to BSB (British Satellite Broadcasting
British Satellite Broadcasting
British Satellite Broadcasting was a British television company which provided direct broadcast satellite television services to the United Kingdom...

). In advance of this, the rival Sky Television plc
Sky Television plc
Sky Television plc was a public limited company which operated its four-channel satellite television service, launched by Rupert Murdoch's News International on 5 February 1989...

 was able to launch an analogue service from Luxembourg regulated satellites. After around a year, the company merged with BSB.

For many years the IBA put out a short weekly programme under the title Engineering Announcements
Engineering Announcements
Engineering Announcements for the Radio and Television Trade, sometimes abbreviated to Engineering Announcements, was a weekly magazine of news and information intended for technicians and salespeople, produced and transmitted by the Independent Television Authority from 23 November 1970 until 31...

, transmitted outside normal programme hours, and not otherwise advertised. These provided valuable technical information for members of the radio and television trade.


The IBA was disbanded as part of the Broadcasting Act 1990
Broadcasting Act 1990
The Broadcasting Act 1990 is a law of the British parliament, often regarded by both its supporters and its critics as a quintessential example of Thatcherism. The aim of the Act was to reform the entire structure of British broadcasting; British television, in particular, had earlier been...

, being replaced on New Year's Day 1991 by the Independent Television Commission
Independent Television Commission
The Independent Television Commission licensed and regulated commercial television services in the United Kingdom between 1 January 1991 and 28 December 2003....

 (ITC) (which also absorbed the Cable Authority), and the Radio Authority (RAu), which have since been merged with other regulators such as Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) and Oftel (Office of Telecommunications) to form one regulator, Ofcom
Ofcom is the government-approved regulatory authority for the broadcasting and telecommunications industries in the United Kingdom. Ofcom was initially established by the Office of Communications Act 2002. It received its full authority from the Communications Act 2003...

. 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
Arqiva is a telecommunications company which provides infrastructure and broadcast transmission facilities in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. The present company, with headquarters located at Crawley Court in the village of Crawley, Hampshire, was formed by National Grid Wireless...

. In 2008 the IBA's extensive archive was lodged with the University of Bournemouth.

The IBA's Membership of the European Broadcasting Union
European Broadcasting Union
The European Broadcasting Union is a confederation of 74 broadcasting organisations from 56 countries, and 49 associate broadcasters from a further 25...

 was passed to United Kingdom Independent Broadcasting (UKIB)

Notable Independent Broadcasting Authority locations

Notable IBA locations included:
  • Headquarters in 70 Brompton Road, London SW3
  • Engineering Division Headquarters at Crawley
    Crawley, Hampshire
    Crawley is a small village in Hampshire, England, United Kingdom. It is a few miles from the county town of Winchester. It is a civil parish within the City of Winchester local government district. The village is the location of Crawley Court, currently the headquarters of broadcast company Arqiva....

     Court, near Winchester, Hampshire (novated to NTL)
  • the transmission sites now belonging to Arqiva
    Arqiva is a telecommunications company which provides infrastructure and broadcast transmission facilities in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. The present company, with headquarters located at Crawley Court in the village of Crawley, Hampshire, was formed by National Grid Wireless...

  • the BSB satellite uplink at Chilworth, Hampshire
  • Engineering Regional Operations Centres at
    1. Beulah Hill, Croydon
    2. Black Hill, near Shotts, Lanarkshire
    3. St Hilary
      St Hilary Transmitting Station
      The St. Hilary transmitting station is a facility for telecommunications situated close to the village of St Hilary, Glamorgan in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, in the UK. It comprises a guyed mast with antennas attached at various heights.-History:...

      , near Cardiff
    4. Emley Moor, near Huddersfield
  • Harman Engineering Training Centre, Seaton, Devon
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