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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
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