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Saturday 14 February 2009

Death of the Salesmen

Will I ever work for ITV again? Today's bad news about the broadcaster (pick your own story, there's one every day) makes it seem increasingly unlikely that there'll be an ITV to work for. It seems unthinkable. Like a High Street with no Woolworths'.

Today's ITV isn't a 'dinosaur of the 60s', as one commentator in The Guardian puts it, but a product of the rapacious, consolidating, asset-milking 90s.

ITV in the 60s was a robust, distributed, internally competitive, regionally-aware confederation of strong-management businesses. In the 70s, when I worked for Granada, I was part of a vigorous production centre bursting with an undifferentiated mix of low and high culture. I watched Marc Bolan tape a show in the studio and then went upstairs and peed in the next stall to Laurence Olivier.

Now it's an inflated, vulnerable, London-based monolith with no identity, no staff loyalty, no viewer loyalty, and a helpless management.

It's tragic. I loved ITV, it was part of my life until it switched its focus to the ever-dwindling demographic of couch potatoes that it saw as "the ITV audience". Witnessing its day-to-day fall is like watching a zeppelin crash.


Gail Renard said...

P.T Barnum said, "No one ever went broke underestimating public taste." Wrong! ITV is about to.

I learned early on in my career (at ITV) never ever underestimate your audience. They're a canny lot who will joyfully keep up or, in the case of children, be one step ahead.

Even though the core audience is now segmented due to new media, I believe a willing, intelligent audience is still out there. Give them Dr. Who, Cranford, Life On Mars, Royle Family, etc, and the whole family will gather round the telly and watch it as a shared experience. No only that, they'll buy the DVD, download et al and watch it over and over again. Give them moving wallpaper and they won't. It's not rocket science. After 50 years, ITV should know better and we all hope it still has time to get it right.

Ian Dickerson said...

It is very sad watching ITV collapse like this. Sadly what's obvious from the very public protestations of late is that very few at ITV have got a clue as to how to stop the rot.

As I think everyone here agrees it's simply about bums on seats. And there ain't very many left in front of ITV.

Chris said...

Perhaps it's time for ITV to bring-back the afternoon switch off, where they stop broadcasting at mid-day and resume again at 4.

As for the pension deficit, what proportion of that fund ends up in the already bulging bank accounts of Grade & Co?

Gail Renard said...

Actually, Chris, the afternoon slots on ITV bring income for British writers, actors and related industries. By special arrangement, ITV repeats series like Morse, MidSomer Murders, etc. so, aside from seeing some
classic series again, it helps us all to make a living. The problem lies with the new peak time shows ITV is creating. Who will want to see repeats of Dancing On Ice in 10 years?

Stan said...

Believe me, it's more depressing when you are working for them.

Gail Renard said...

Ouch. Is anyone hopeful on the ground, Stan?

Stan said...

We're all waiting until the announcement next month but I shouldn't think anyone feels secure.

Unknown said...

On the other hand...

Tonight on ITV1, in the six hours between 6pm and midnight, there are 125 minutes of self-produced news (national and local and a "Tonight" special report), 90 minutes of self-produced "soaps" (Emmerdale and 2x Coronation Street), 60 minutes of original drama (Whitechapel).

Is that really so bad for a Monday?