ITV is a commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 as Independent Television under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK. Since the passing of the Broadcasting Act 1990 its legal name has been Channel 3, to distinguish it from the other analogue channels at the time, namely BBC 1, BBC 2 and Channel 4. In part, the number 3 was assigned as television sets would usually be tuned so that the regional ITV station would be on the third button, with the other stations being allocated to the number within their name.
ITV is a network of television channels that operate regional television services as well as sharing programmes between each other to be displayed on the entire network. In recent years, several of these companies have merged so currently the fifteen franchises are in the hands of three companies.
The ITV network is to be distinguished from ITV plc, the company that resulted from the merger of Granada plc and Carlton Communications in 2004 and which holds the Channel 3 broadcasting licences in England, Wales, southern Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Similarly the ITV brand is the brand used by ITV plc for the Channel 3 service in these areas. Of the companies external to ITV plc, STV and UTV use their own brands in their own respective areas.