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1 September 2001

You know, here I am, thinking that I have seen every kind of stupidity and idiocy that this world has to offer, and then a person or an organisation has to go and prove me wrong.

This time, it is ITV who have proved, once again, that they are so blind as to be unable to see the big picture, even when it is overwhelming and staring them right in the face.

For those who have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, I will explain. It has been reported that ITV is to drop regional identities on all network programming. Now most of you will probably not understand why this has any kind of impact at all. Once again, I will explain, only this explanation will be a lot longer.

Since its inception in 1955, the strength of ITV has been its regionalism. Its structure was regional, its vision was regional, its presentation and production was regionally based, and yet corporate at the same time. It wasn’t until the emergency strike service of 1968 that any thought was given to a national identity. At that time, it was Independent Television, as introduced by in-vision continuity announcers such as Sheila Kennedy and David Hamilton, but it was a temporary measure, while technicians were on strike. Then when the strike ended, everything went back to normal regional service.

It was individual companies in the ITV network that built ITV’s foundations. ABC, Rediffusion, ATV and Westward, amongst others, helped make ITV the success it was, a success that was built upon by Thames, LWT, Yorkshire and Central in the 1980s. Then Granada and Carlton both decided that they wanted the entire ITV network for their own, and that they wanted their own media empires alongside that. They started buying up companies, left, right and centre and launching new channels on cable and satellite by the bucket load. This didn’t seem to be too much of a problem in the mid-1990s, as the advertising market was strong and there weren’t quite so many channels around. They were the media darlings of the stock market, and they seemed completely untouchable.

Then Carlton made their first big mistake by actually rebranding both Central and Westcountry as Carlton. Not only that, they added the ITV and later ITV1 brandings to the idents, so we have Carlton ITV1 producing and introducing Westcountry Live and Central News. Oh yes, now that is really how to rebrand a station.

Then we find out that ONdigital is losing money hand over fist for Carlton and Granada, and they try a tactic, which if they’d waited until ONdigital was making a profit would have been a good move, and renamed the system ITV Digital. But they made the move too soon. ITV Digital wasn’t profitable, and the darlings of the stock market were looking somewhat shaky.

What really wiped away any shine that Carlton and Granada’s shares had left was the launch and subsequent closure of the ITV Sport Channel, and the debacle involving the Football League, the channel and ITV Digital. Now, they are trying to make ITV1 into a national channel, with nothing to distinguish it from Sky One, Living TV or any other digital TV station. What do they think they’re playing at? They are about to throw away almost 50 years of history, ITV’s Unique Selling Point, and any hope they have of making ITV good again – in one fell swoop.

They have completely lost the plot and it’s going to take a miracle now for this to be turned round. Yet, all they should do is look at just how well the local radio stations that are making a point of being truly local are doing, and they would see where they are going wrong, but as usual, they can’t see the wood for the trees. They are cutting off their collective noses and they don’t even feel it. ITV have lost the plot, and I hope the ghosts of ITV past will start haunting ITV present until they learn their mistakes.

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Liverpool, Tuesday 9 July 2024