Those who wondered whether UTV as a channel name is living on borrowed time may want to take a look over the North Channel to Scotland. Not so long ago, the idea of ditching the name Grampian Television and replacing it with STV would have caused outrage. Yet when it finally did happen in 2006 any criticism seemed to mostly come from politicians and those with a sense of nostalgia.
The reality was that Grampian had become STV in all but name by stealth earlier. STV’s parent Scottish Media Group bought Grampian TV in 1997. The two stations had always worked well together but had very different personalities.
Scottish, from the mid-80s, was a dynamic company. Its local output was contemporary and often hard-hitting. The company was also pushing to make more for the network and was responsible for many big hits including Taggart and Wheel of Fortune.
Grampian, on the other hand, was the friendly wee station for the north and north east. Its programmes were very traditional (some would say dated) and often based in the studio.
Comparing the two, one wag said, was like comparing the Daily Record with the Press and Journal – the Scottish sister of the Daily Mirror and the oh so respectable regional daily based in Aberdeen.
After the takeover, little happened on screen for a year. A few more Scottish programmes appeared on Grampian and vice versa but that was about it.
Then the bombshell. Grampian’s friendly in-vision announcers – who also read the news – were to be axed. In autumn 1998, they vanished behind a temporary ident made to replace the 1989 corporate logo still in use on Grampian. It was a visible signal of change rather than a mere efficiency saving.
Then in 2000, the first rebrand. Out went the Grampian saltire and the Scottish thistle. In its place, in came new identical logos based around a blue square. Presentation-wise the two stations started to share all the same characteristics other than the name.
Meanwhile the schedule was amalgamating – indeed the ITC had to intervene to briefly restore some dedicated non-news programmes for the Grampian region. Too many programmes had a “pan Scottish” flavour.
Notably from about 2003, some trails and announcements did not even name the station. Around this time Grampian also left its home in Aberdeen city centre for smaller premises on an industrial estate.
By 2006 the schedule was identical on both stations and the painful or difficult decisions behind-the-scenes had been and gone.
A new brand was announced – STV. In Central Scotland this was just a return to the old name – Scottish Television had used the name informally from earlier on and it was the official station name in the 70s and early 80s. Indeed, it had remained in common conversational use amongst the public.
But for Grampian, it was the end. Perhaps a sad occasion for some but mitigated by the fact that the station’s unique personality had gradually faded in the preceding 9 years.
From a certain date, the adoption of a common brand had seemed inevitable. Those likely to truly care were perhaps resigned to it.
Meanwhile STV in Aberdeen had to get on with providing a regional news service – one not provided by the BBC – and helping to disprove the idea that the name STV only represented the central belt.
PICTURED: Grampian ident (1970s). SUPPLIED BY: Online. COPYRIGHT: STV.