Subscribe Online  

Blogs&
comment

Time for ITV to talk renewal

December is the time of year for traditions. One of my favourites is the moment when ITV executives start talking about creative renewal. This is because The X Factor and I'm a Celebrity air at the same time and everyone watches ITV for eight weeks.

Every year it seems the channel is on the verge of a breakthrough. Then it’s January and back to Family Fortunes.

At least new chief executive Adam Crozier has tried to mix it up a bit by telling the Lords select committee that the reason ITV is forced to rely on “lowest common denominator” programming such as “soaps and what have you” is the demon CRR.

Which is a perfectly good diagnosis unless you have a memory, a brain or actually watch ITV. Those of us watching have noticed the brilliant campaign the channel is running supporting the 50th anniversary of Coronation Street. A soap. Which predates CRR by a mere 43 years.

This season alone, ITV has scooped the world with a royal interview, produced the most talked about ABC1 drama of the autumn in Downton Abbey and somehow (I suspect witchcraft) managed to take two, huge long-running shows and make them compelling again. If we gloss over Daybreak we see no evidence of derivative, lazy programming.

But that’s not even the really shortsighted bit of Crozier’s argument, as evidenced by the entirely predictable appearance of Lord South Bank Show last month. You can lobby for CRR to be removed if you like, but you must anticipate that Melvyn Bragg will stand in front of you with his hand outstretched and demand arts in prime time in exchange for its relaxation.

And the children’s TV producers? If they’re not reminding Ofcom of the haste with which their 50 odd years of rich heritage was dispatched, they’re not the lobbyers I know them to be. And so they should.

Even these are dwarfed by Crozier’s biggest problems. ITV.com has flatlined on video views and his big plan is to launch micropayments in the face of this apparent apathy.

Meanwhile the way to fix ITV studios is apparently to renew attempts to buy All3Media, an idea which has been underway for at least the last seven years to my certain knowledge. It is the Celebrity Love Island of executive strategy and suggests the only thing lowest common denominator at ITV right now is the board, not the programming.

Janine Gibson is editor of guardian.co.uk

Posted 07 December 2010 by Janine Gibson

A clear win for the BBC

No wonder nobody could decide whether the BBC cuts were bad or good. Generally we have plenty of time to assess these things. Who would’ve believed it possible that a negotiation between state and publicly-owned broadcaster (with more “stakeholders” than is countable) could be achieved apparently overnight?

Such was the haste with which the BBC deal was done, we needed four days to recover before Mark Thompson could tell us whether it was good or not. “The BBC's independence is strengthened”, he wrote in MediaGuardian, as if wishing made it so; a point only slightly undermined by the leader column in the same paper arguing the opposite.

So we can quibble and query over the relative benefits of the BBC taking full control over the World Service, finally. We can even haver and caveat over no rise in the licence fee for the next six years and, if you want to be exceptionally nerdy, we can spend some time discussing S4C.

The real test though is what would you do, oh fellow media owner? Ask any media company whether they would accept a fixed income for the next six years and they’d likely take out all your limbs in their anxiety to bite your arm off.

Obviously I exclude Sky. No point about the media industry can be made including Sky anymore. I’m starting to wonder if it can be reclassified as a telecommunications and bundling hub, simply for rhetorical benefits.

So this is most definitely a win for the BBC. As a media organisation that isn’t dependent on advertising, that doesn’t have to create a whole new subscription base for itself and knows its income will rise over the next six years due to the increase in number of households, its position is exceptionally strong.

A farewell triumph, then, for Michael Lyons. Which reminds me. The ad for his replacement is out. It doesn’t mention “ability to accede to Jeremy Hunt’s demands re the National Audit Office” in the job description, but you can be sure it’ll come up at interview. Apply often and good luck! Remember, it’s between you and Terry Leahy...

Janine Gibson is editor of guardian.co.uk

Posted 01 November 2010 by Janine Gibson

Pay attention to Murdoch's masterplan

There was a brief moment in August when it appeared that Mark Thompson had actually managed to unsettle Rupert Murdoch. Thommo, it seemed, had said the unsayable in his MacTaggart, and would begin to rally support around the ‘anyone but Murdoch’ crusade. And then the moment, like all such moments, passed.

Now we mustn't overstate this. This kind of anti-Murdoch sentiment comes and goes – usually around a big acquisition – and then ebbs away as regulators submit and the relentless growth continues. History shows that we generally discover that a world where Murdoch rules the (air) waves isn't quite as bad as we feared and, well, the customer service is a bit better.

But right now there are massing forces. The BBC, the Guardian (who I work for) and the New York Times are the only three news organisations investigating the phone hacking stories out of News International which (it is not overstating to say) go right to the heart of government.

Two weeks after Thompson’s blast against Sky, Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, announced he is not seeking a second term, we suspect, because he has been led to understand he would not be appointed. This as the government ratchets up the pressure on the BBC to cutback.

For decades, Sky, Murdoch and News International, from Kelvin MacKenzie through Nick Pollard, have made hay with the suggestion that they are the scrappy anti-establishment types. The Millwall code got them a long way and rightly cast the TV and Print industries as slow, stuffy and patrician.

But as Murdoch presumably calls in his favours, and government and regulators appear once more to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, something does seem to have changed. When the FT runs a leader demanding that Murdoch’s bid to fully own BSkyB be blocked, when a respected industry consultant writes to Vince Cable suggesting we are on the verge of a “Berlusconi moment” and when the non-Murdoch press is full of stories of criminal activity, then something has gone seriously awry with the master plan. It’s time to pay attention.

Janine Gibson is editor of guardian.co.uk

Posted 01 October 2010 by Janine Gibson

The real value of TV talent



There’s never been an easy relationship between a star and the person, place or platform that created it. In the world of talent management, the only thing you can be absolutely sure of is that at some point the wheels will come off. Often spectacularly.

Last month, as TV agent to the stars Jon Roseman sold his story to The Daily Mail (across three days! With the revelation that some presenters are difficult! And also some execs!), we were treated to the most undignified spectacle of Christine Bleakley’s dithering over whether to accept ITV’s large cheque or the BBC’s. The three-way PR battle was so bitterly fought that, despite the man hours expended, all parties managed to come out of it looking greedy, petty, desperate and cynical. No mean feat.

Naturally the real loser will end up being the BBC. Not for the lack of Bleakley’s services, or even all-new-Daybreak’s impact on BBC Breakfast (‘dream teams’ have a patchy record on the transfer market) but because, as ever, any discussion about talent costs leads back to the perennial philosophical debate about the corporation’s role.

Right now, the BBC is politically too weak to do anything but roll with the punches. Its own elder statesmen (Terry Wogan and Bruce Forsyth for crying out loud) are publicly calling for restraint and its chairman Michael Lyons is demanding the corporation be more transparent about pay.

Previously the BBC has used one, very public refusal to enter into a bidding war to silence the debate. Jonathan Ross, Vanessa Feltz and Frank Skinner have all found themselves on the wrong end of a bolt for the moral high ground in the past.

This time, the tactic will not suffice. The debate will not die. And yet, the talent themselves have never been more powerful. In a digital age, as Jeremy Clarkson has irritatingly learned, the ability to congregate an audience around your persona alone is exponentially valuable.

The problem for all broadcasters, not just the BBC, is that very soon their prize assets might not need them at all. And then we’ll know what value for money really is.

Posted 04 August 2010 by Janine Gibson

C4's uncertain future in an age of austerity



It is indeed the age of austerity. You can tell because Channel 4’s total profit for the last financial year was the kind of money that used to go on a senior executive bonus. Or a really good party.

£300k. Don’t sneer, it is in itself a miracle worthy of Derren Brown. The main channel lost £61.6m. To bring that round into credit speaks volumes about the cost cutting at Horseferry Road over the last 12 months. Significantly, C4 has managed to configure its digital businesses in ways which support the advertising deficit in the analogue world rather than vice versa. Would that every mainstream media company was in that happy position. Whether E4 in particular will look quite so profitable in the post-Big Brother, post-Friends wasteland is harder to see.

Not that anything is clear about the future for C4. All is uncertainty. The restructuring announced by new chief exec David Abraham last month suggests a dramatic change of personnel is ahead. A quarter of senior management will go. Julian Bellamy’s job is disappearing, though he is appointed to an interim post of chief creative officer. Commissioning editors are being thinned out, it seems, in favour of audience insight and customer relationship management. These are skills already very much employed at Sky, newspaper groups and the BBC. That C4, always an outperforming brand, never had such a department, is typical of the hole many media companies now find themselves in. Broadcasters, by their very definition, have never had a direct relationship with their viewers and that’s not sustainable.

And as success at C4 shifts from having vital relationships with politicians, regulators and press who will support the case for the broadcaster into those who will pay for it in a different way, one of its key advocates is also leaving. Matt Baker, who for 12 years has defended, articulated and only occasionally dissembled, has decided four chief executives is too many for one head of press and will leave the channel.

Baker has been a powerful and committed voice for everything that is good about C4. If he also tried way too hard to defend some of the rubbish, well that’s what you get paid for. As they rightly struggle, yet again, to redefine themselves as both public service and commercially successful in a new and complex age, they will miss him and so will we.

Posted 06 July 2010 by Janine Gibson

Sky runs rings around policy makers

Another day, another appeal lodged. Serial litigant Sky is, like one of those ambulance chasing law firms, spending rather a lot of time in the courts. Last month, Sky finally sold its stake in ITV. This 17.5% stake, bought in November 2006 clearly with the purpose of thwarting ITV management, was finally sold in February 2010 for a £350m loss. For three and a half years, Sky appealed against rulings that it should dispose of the stake.

Everyone, literally everyone, knew what Sky was up to and frankly the fact that ITV was such a basket case did nothing to help its cause either. This month, Sky – it is ruled by Ofcom – must cut the wholesale price of its sports channels. This dispute, too, has been going on so long that one of the companies behind the action is no more.

Sky's tactic here has successfully seen out Setanta. It will, of course, appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal. So we’ll pick this up in about three years, then.

This is broadcasting policy by default or regulation by competition law and it is unsatisfactory at best. It’s impossible to have a coherence of position through appeal tribunals. They take three years to get to the point where they can even make a decision for a start. There's no point railing against Sky. While their behaviour might mimic that of a non-compliant toddler, they’re not doing anything wrong. What else should they do but protect their shareholders interests for as long as legally possible?

Take a look at the competition appeal tribunal's website (www.catribunal.org.uk) and run through the nine pages of cases looked at since its inception in 2003. The vast majority are communications. Cable and Wireless, BT, Sky, Virgin, Telefonica, T-Mobile must be stuck in the revolving doors.

It's not Ofcom's fault, easy though it is to look at the regulator and raise an eyebrow. This is a failure of policy. The DCMS must take the blame for failing to properly engage with the complex sprawl that are our communications companies.

If one entity is effectively controlling the markets in terrestrial broadcasting, digital broadcasting, sports rights, movie rights and pay per view content then this needs to be looked at in the round. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time and money to be still fighting appeals on acts of corporate sabotage performed three years ago.

Janine Gibson is editor of guardian.co.uk

Posted 19 April 2010 by Janine Gibson

Will the BBC's IPhone app help or hurt rivals?

It's all perfectly clear now. Having spent, er, a few minutes watching C4’s Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance, I can finally resolve my inner conflict over the BBC between celebrating its brilliance and damning its infuriating stupidity. The BBC is merely an errant child, badly reared and will persist in pushing at boundaries and testing our love until we are firm and invoke time out and/or a naughty step.

For 50 years commercial broadcasters have complained of BBC market interventions performed with the security of public funding in the name of innovation. Much of this has been condemned as whinging and most of it has been ineffective. The BBC has a website, two children’s channels, many music radio stations and a clutch of magazines, irrespective of years of doubtless very costly lobbying.

So what to make now of the corporation’s ventures in three news and sport apps for the iPhone – and in time other smart phones as well? A whole new front has opened up in the ‘be everywhere’ strategy and now Mark Thompson’s tanks are firmly on newspapers’ lawns. Either business model the BBC might have embraced can be described as damaging the already wounded press. Paid for? Well that’s charging licence fee payers twice and sucking up cash that might be spent on other news apps (the Guardian’s is just £2.39! Available now!). Free? Well we’re back to the website argument run by James Murdoch et al. They can't charge while the BBC is there spewing out news for nothing.

This dance has to be danced and, as with every other expansion the BBC has made into new territory, limits (thank you Jo) must be set; ideally in advance. We don’t want another Lonely Planet. But they should be of the ‘no telly on a school night’ variety rather than the total screen ban for under 18s.

The Guardian spent a long time developing its iPhone app. It’s the best in its (otherwise free) market and the talented team have proudly sold 100,000 units in just over two months. I’ll be interested, if not gripped, to see what impact the BBC’s app has. But I stick to the belief that it will neither destroy nor worsen our offering. The Guardian’s app proved people would pay for quality news delivered to mobile with brilliant functionality. We will simply have to keep innovating.

Janine Gibson is editor of guardian.co.uk

Posted 09 March 2010 by Janine Gibson
Showing 1 - 7 Records Of 7
1
 

About this Author

  • Editor Of Guardian.co.uk

  • Total Posts: 7

Recent Posts by This Author

Archives

Subscribe






















Televisual Media UK Ltd 23 Golden Square, London, W1F 9JP
©2009 - 2017 Televisual. All rights reserved
Use of this website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use | Disclaimer