Part Three

Steve Williams takes on Channel 5

First published August 2001

I probably had the easiest ride of all the schedulers from the panel. This was basically because, like me, none of those assembled had particularly strong feelings about the channel’s output at the moment, so there were no “How dare you drop Oprah/Singled Out/Tin Tin/etc.” comments that I had to contend with. However, I was asked what had happened to The Mole – I had to admit that I’d forgotten all about it. As one of my few quality programmes, I’d have to do something about it.

Of my new programmes, the most controversial was Chat with Cheggers. It was suggested that Cheggers wouldn’t have the gravitas to chair a current affairs discussion, and that it would trivialise the day’s events. I argued that Keith had been in television now for 25 years, and thus knew how to control a programme. I also pointed out his stint on The Big Breakfast, where he’d also dealt with topical events and some important stories. Furthermore, I said that the programme wasn’t intending to be a hard-hitting current affairs series, but basically the equivalent to The Wright Stuff at present. It would mention the day’s news stories, but only if the news was entertaining. It was put to me that my daytime programmes were similar to the line-up on BBC1 and ITV, but as a mainstream channel we were basically aiming for a similar audience, and I’d specifically scheduled my magazine series in the afternoon away from This Morning and it’s BBC1 equivalent.

I was asked if Channel 5′s licence obliged it to produce hourly news bulletins; I suggested this probably wasn’t the case, it was just something C5 had established on their own. I also said again that I didn’t really see the relevance of hourly news during the morning. Nobody seemed to like Five News on Demand, but the viewing figures at that time of the day would be tiny anyway, so I thought we should show something unusual there. At the moment C5 are simulcasting the ITN Channel, which updates the news every 15 minutes, and this was basically the same thing only at higher speed.

I’d announced that Family Affairs would probably have to become more youthful in its outlook to survive on C5. I was asked if this was a wise move considering that Hollyoaks was on Channel 4 at the same time. I conceded the point, but argued that viewers had three chances to catch each edition of Family Affairs in any case, so they could watch both. Also Family Affairs ran daily, so there was the chance for Hollyoaks viewers to sample my series on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

My Saturday schedules had, I admitted, looked a little anaemic, and the evenings in particular were rather reliant on imports. However, I tried to keep the same mix of programming that the channel had at the moment, so there was two and a half consecutive hours of new programming each weekday evening, which there wasn’t always at the moment, as well as my new late night series with Melinda, and this boosting of the weeknight schedules had meant money was diverted away from the weekend line-up.

There was, also, little new drama except for Family Affairs. I pointed out again that I’d be willing to show new drama one-offs on a Sunday night, and that C5 had little success with returning series in any case. Again, I had to balance out the budget as much as possible.

<Part Two