ITV licence fees reduced 

29 June 2005

ITV wins reduced licence fees [RTE]

Twelve years after the Conservatives privatised ITV, and switched from selecting contractors by programme plans to selecting contractors by how rich they were, a little bit of that nonsense has finally been unpicked.

The problem with the “got money? You’re in!” system was that it immediately drained funds out of ITV and sent the reformed channel down into a spiral of making ever cheaper, ever more populist crappy shows in order to try to make up the shortfall.

So getting rid of this ridiculous idea is a good thing.

But it’s too little, too late. After all, the damage has been done. The old ITV, a federal system that valued quality products and enjoyed making television programmes for all, has now been replaced by a monolith broadcaster that churns out fad programmes that consistently fail to achieve good ratings but continually drag the tone of the channel down. The latest run of failed “celebrity” and “reality” programming – Nonentity Wrestling, for instance – is clear evidence that the talented producers and commissioners at ITV are long gone.

ITV has promised to put this windfall of saved money directly into programming. It won’t – it’ll put the money directly into the shareholders’ pockets.

Even if it did spend the money wisely on programming (ITV needs to remember that it is a programme maker that sells advertising time, not an advertising medium that has programmes) the aching lack of talent in the system – from management to commissioners to producers – would still shine through.

A better spend might be on trying to recapture what the channel once had – a golden touch for quality, popular programmes commissioned and made by people with talent. Having fired all the talent in the last 12 years, it’s a tall order to get it back.

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