Following the Television Act of 1954 which made commercial television in the UK possible, ITV first began broadcasting in 1955 on Channel 3 in the London area. By 1973 there were 15 separate Channel 3 regional broadcasting licences and each of the regional licences was run by a separate company.
The Broadcasting Act of 1990 allowed regional companies, under specific conditions, to merge for the first time. It paved the way for the consolidation of ITV and the first merger took place in 1994 when Granada bought LWT. By the new millennium Granada plc owned six regional licences, Carlton owned five, Scottish Media Group (SMG, now STV) owned two and Ulster and Channel remained independent.
The merger of Granada and Carlton became an obvious next step. The necessary changes in legislation were introduced by the Communications Act and the Competition Commission approved the merger plans. In February 2004 ITV plc, owner of eleven of the fifteen regional licences, was born. Today ITV plc sells advertising on behalf of all fifteen of the licences and produces much of the programming broadcast on ITV channels.
Since the merger ITV has expanded its family of channels with the launch of ITV2 in 1998, ITV3 in 2004, ITV4 in 2005, CITV in 2006 and ITVBe in 2014. ITV also launched its first pay channel, ITV Encore in 2014.