Making the Grade

Sunday, August 31, 2008 by

Once I would have been appalled at the idea of scrapping ITV, but not anymore.

"My dear Mr Grade, when are you bringing back 3-2-1?"

"My dear Mr Grade, when are you bringing back 3-2-1?"

Once I would’ve had some default reaction along the lines of: don’t even dream of touching such an institution; sure, it might be ailing, a half-breath of the presence it used to be, but don’t say the remedy should be extinction. It still has a part to play, it still stands for something…doesn’t it?

Actually I’m not quite sure when I would have argued such a thing. 10 years ago? 20? The last programme I really cared about on ITV was Cracker, and even that got cocked up. So now I have no reserve in proposing its demise.


But in a practical, constructive way, mind. Basically, the channel should join its cousins as a purely-digital venture. ITV1 should air from 7pm to 1am every night, on Freeview, satellite, cable and online. It should vanish from the analogue spectrum. This would:

a) be an enormous kick up the arse for the rest of the country to switch to digital
b) save Michael Grade a hell of a lot of money (and a lot of face besides)
c) make sense

Because there’s no logic in ITV existing as a public service broadcaster anymore. It doesn’t broadcast anything of public service. It hates the fact it has to fill the daytime with programmes, so take the daytime away from it. It can’t stand having to broadcast the news, so scrap that too. It can’t give sport the time and format it deserves, so ditch that and relaunch ITV Sport as a digital channel. GMTV could go it alone if it wanted, again as a purely digital service.

The only things that ITV1 can rely on these days to earn it money are Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Simon Cowell. They also seem to be the only things people want to watch on ITV1. Fair enough: stuff the schedules of the new all-digital ITV1 with them, plus The Bill, Heartbeat and a film to finish the evening off. Sorted. There’d even be proper start-ups and closedowns again, to please anyone over the age of 30.

One piece of legislation would do the trick. It could be Gordon Brown’s legacy to the nation. Were Michael Grade to propose such a thing, and then succeed, he’d be slaughtered by the press and politicians for about three weeks, but then hailed as the saviour of ITV for the rest of his days.

Do it Mike!


3 Responses to “Making the Grade”

  1. Rob Williams on September 7th, 2008 5:45 pm

    Totally agree with you, ITV have got spare capacity when CITV closes at 6pm. So why not can’t be ITV Gold, thus taking programmes off ITV 3 and 4, making 3 a lifestyle channel and 4 a dedicated sport channel…

  2. Jon Haw on September 13th, 2008 2:49 pm

    Of course, ITV also wants to dump it’s regional commitments – and to some extent they’re right. Although regional telly has a special place in many of our hearts, really it’s always been a bit pointless as the regions are defined by transmitter footprints and bare no relation to any administrative borders or areas of shared local identity. Take the regional news – in order to find out what’s going on here in Lincoln, viewers have to sit through a load of stuff about Nottingham, Leicester and Derby that they have little interest in – just as I’m sure the people of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby have little interest in what’s happening in Lincoln. Regional news producers know this, which is why they end up doing “human interest” and jokey stories – so as not to alientate any part of the audience. Genuine local news, politics etc rarely get a look in. The result is that regional news falls between two stools – neither small enough to be of genuine local interest, nor big enough to have the importance and gravitas of national news.

    So here’s an idea – why not let ITV drop all of it’s expensive regional obligations but, in return, they must give up a few selected timeslots and 1 minute of advertising in primetime every day. A network of LOCAL (not regional) franchises can then be advertised – one for each county in the UK. The franchises would be given these daily timeslots (say 12.30-1pm, 5.30-6.30pm, 11-11.30pm) to produce genuinely local news magazines. They would sell local advertising during their timeslots, along with the 1 minute in primetime which would help subsidise them. ITV could then concentrate on big national shows, and audiences would get a local news service that actually reflects their area.

    Just a thought….

  3. Adrian Partington on September 22nd, 2008 4:15 pm

    I think that ITV1 is bar far the weakest of all the ITV channels. Presumably the other ITV channels are free to cherry pick from the best of ITV past and present, while ITV1 is lumbered with the mainly fairly ropey current output.

    I believe there needs to be a debate as to whether many channels should actually broadcast 24 hours a day – they seem to regard doing so as a sign of commercial virility, yet it’s done at the expense of filling the daytime and early hours slots with any old rubbish..