London Weekend Television logo, 1978-1996
London Weekend Television Limited (LWT) is the ITV contractor for London, Friday 5:15pm to Monday, 5:59am. The company took over from ATV Network Limited on 2 August 1968 (ATV continued broadcasting to the Midlands until 1981). ATV's weekend franchise had covered Saturdays and Sundays only; when LWT came on air it was also awarded Friday night from 7 PM, which meant there was an on-screen handover from Thames Television at 6:59. In the 1980s LWT's hours were extended to begin at 5:15, much to the chagrin of Thames. When Carlton Television took over from Thames in 1993 the times were retained, but since Carlton hired its broadcast facilities from LWT the on-screen handover no longer involved switching between different studios.
The channel's output was limited, producing an average of 50 hours programming a week. However LWT has had a disproportionate effect on post-war British Television, as a number of high-flying media personalities including John Birt, Michael Grade and Greg Dyke were all "LWT Boys".
David Frost was an original director of LWT, and he presented a late-night talk show in the station's early years. Another talk show host who made his debut on LWT was Russell Harty.
Other notable early shows included We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, a sketch show starring Frank Muir (it was the first program scheduled to be aired on LWT, but industrial action that occurred during the preceding week blacked it out early into the first show); the children's fantasy Catweazle; and several sitcoms, including On the Buses, Please, Sir and Mind Your Language. The channel also created the comedy clips format with "It'll Be Alright on the Night" and the much derided "Game for a Laugh" that spawned "You've Been Framed".
Because it was a weekend station LWT's output tended to concentrate on more lightweight material than Thames, but it did produce a number of successful drama shows. Within These Walls, a prison drama starring veteran actress Googie Withers, seems to have inspired the later Australian soap opera Prisoner: Cell Block H. Lillie was based on the real-life story of Lillie Langtry (Francesca Annis reprised the role from ATV's Edward the Seventh). But by far the station's most successful drama was Upstairs, Downstairs, a successful attempt to produce a costume drama comparable in scale to the BBC's The Forsyte Saga. (The BBC repaid the compliment with The Duchess of Duke Street).
The company was acquired by Granada Group plc (now ITV plc) in 1994. Major programmes on LWT include most of the ITV Saturday night lineup including Blind Date, You've Been Framed, and their arts strand, The South Bank Show. LWT also owns 50% of London News Network Limited, producers until February 2004 of the news programmes London Today and London Tonight. Regional news for London is now produced by ITN.
On 27 October 2002, LWT's famous blue-white-red ribbon ident aired for the last time, following an airing of LWTs 1970s startup sequence at around 5am (However, this was not the real ident or the real startup, it was merely a reproduction in Macromedia Flash). The following Friday, LWT became known as ITV1 (London Weekends), with only the ITV1 logo appearing before programmes. This means that there is no distinction between LWT and its London weekday neighbour Carlton Television (ITV1 (London)). The LWT logo continued to appear at the end of its programmes however until 31 October 2004. From 1 November 2004, LWT's productions carry a Granada London logo instead.
- The LWT website (http://www.lwt.co.uk)
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