During the 1950s, ITC was at the forefront of television as a growing medium. The company later branched into motion pictures and remained a ubiquitous trademark until the mid-1990s.
Although the company has faded out of existence and its library rights sit in the hands of other firms, the Incorporated Television Company will always keep a special place in the history of performing arts. It was a company that aimed for the largest possible audience and is remembered for entertaining millions of viewers.
The Origins of ITC
The Incorporated Television Company, first called the Incorporated Television Programme Company (ITP), began as a media partnership. When British government prepared to issue its first licenses for commercialized television broadcasts on ITV Network in 1954, the Ukrainian-born talent agent Lew Grade and his brother Leslie rounded up investors from the entertainment industry.
Grade, a former professional dancer and experienced negotiator, secured financing from an impressive list that included theater magnate Prince Littler, producer Binkie Beaumont,and Val Parnell of the Moss Empires variety circuit.
The ITP board became a who’s who of British theater, film, and casting executives, a fact not lost on the Independent Television Authority. The ITA, who made final decision on which applicants should receive licenses to air, feared a monopoly of British television with so many influential names working as a group. ITP was turned down, the licenses going to four other companies.
When one of these four companies – the Associated Broadcasting Distribution Company – admitted to a lack of finances in getting its system off the ground, Grade’s ITP was hired to supply programs. Under its familiar name of ITC, the company began producing shows for weekend broadcasts in London and weekdays in the English Midlands, drawing large audiences.
By 1958, ITC merged with Associated Broadcasting to become Associated Television, or the ATV media conglomerate. It was only a matter of time before the ITC partners, especially Grade, came to dominate British television and become a visible name abroad.
ITC’s Programming and Films
ITC first broke onto the airwaves in 1955 with The Adventures of Robin Hood, an idea commissioned by American producer Hannah Weinstein. The series, expensively budgeted at £10,000 per episode (about $15,000), was distributed in both the UK and US, lasting until 1960.
Other successful dramas in the 1950s and 60s included Fury with Peter Graves, Danger Man, Ghost Squad, The Saint with Roger Moore, and The Forest Rangers, co-produced with the CBC in Canada. The company also turned out popular soap operas (including Emergency-Ward 10 and Crossroads), variety shows (The Diana Dors Show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium), game shows, documentaries, and specials.
By the 1970s, ITC’s helix-shaped logo was a fixture of television worldwide. The company turned out widely-viewed TV programs for several more years, especially Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show from 1976 to 1981.
As success on television declined, however, ITC made a shift to motion pictures and TV miniseries. Though ITC often hired larger companies for its film distribution, it produced several noteworthy titles on the big screen including The Return of the Pink Panther, The Eagle Has Landed, Capricorn One, The Boys From Brazil, The Muppet Movie, and On Golden Pond.
Successful miniseries included Moses the Lawgiver and Jesus of Nazareth, directed by Franco Zeffirelli.