What is the name of the Channel 3 service in Northern Ireland? No, it’s not some banal phone-in question. You might genuinely need to think about it.
Since last April, of course, UTV has carried network trails and continuity. The UTV name itself is confined to local trails and the titles of local programmes.
On this week’s UTV Life, Pamela Ballantine interviewed Anna Friel – star of Marcella. In one link she said the show was on UTV – in another on ITV.
It may, of course, have been a simple slip of the tongue but it begs an interesting question. Is the channel itself called ITV or UTV?
There’s no reason to think that ITV has a plan to actively rebrand the UTV operation as, say, ITV Northern Ireland. And I think it is safe to say that nobody with any sense of sensitivity would contemplate reintroducing the word Ulster into the name.
Northern Ireland could be said to be “ITV’s UTV region” in the same way as some English regional names still exist in programme titles and off-screen documentation.
But in, say, the north west it’s clear the channel is called ITV – even if the regional news is called Granada Reports.
Apart from Pammy’s link, the UTV channel name still survives in a few other forms – notably local trails and the channel name on the EPG. If and when these change, it’s fair to assume there will be little comment away from TV presentation forums.
And what about other remaining uses of the channel name?
If you buy a UK-wide newspaper or TV listings magazine, you will of course look at a third column headed ITV. The UTV name may, of course, still be used for the regional variations.
But a publication produced in Northern Ireland still lists UTV.
In the longer term, this risks diluting the brand. The question is about whether the remaining uses of the UTV channel name on-air will survive or go by stealth. And will ITV’s press office make a friendly request to listings editors?
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I suppose it is confusing in a way, and a last bastion of “the old system”. The thing is, we’ve now got adults alive who weren’t born or don’t remember a system of different channel names. The average man in the street wants to know “does it still broadcast The Masked Singer and Coronation Street?” Is the brand also diluted in Scotland? I’d say so – it seems a bit odd to have the main channel called STV but the sister channels called ITV. Whether or not ITV takes over there remains to be seen, but I daresay Holyrood would intervene – they did when Global introduced breakfast shows from London to Heart and Capital in Scotland.