Say hello, wave goodbye 

1 February 2003 tbs.pm/1823

Branding Granada - decent presentations means decent programming

You would think our highly paid ITV executives would, by now, have learnt from their mistake of butchering of what use to be one of the greatest television networks in the world.

But no. Their minds appear still focused on acquisitions and greed in developing a single brand ITV Network.

London Weekend Television’s presentation department, obviously not in the same mould as today’s “moguls”, felt the need to go out in style with transmitters in service, opening announcements and a TV start-up sequence that used to make ITV special each and every day.

Like wildfire, the LWT last day presentation swept across the internet with news of its official last day start up sequence and was reported on TV news here in Australia.

Like a child yearning for Christmas Day on the eve, I searched the net looking for any downloads to record history and eventually found it in all its spectacular glory.

Like a nervous patient waiting in the dentist, there was I waiting for the download to complete when my wife shouted to me “get a life”. But this didn’t matter as I finally saw LWT in all its glory bidding a sentimental farewell.

So then I searched the net to see if my Granada region did the same. They always had to be different in the past, yet now just a bland transition into ITV1, no goodbyes, no nothing. The Northwest station changed forever from the days of the Bernsteins and Denis Forman.

So now the UK has a single ITV1. The question I have to ask is “when does the world beating TV start?” But we know it’s not going to.

The success of ITV from inception was its regions. Local companies moulded a federal system, and ITV’s remit was always its specialty – regionalism.

Newspapers would describe in articles the fall and rise of housing prices in ITV regions, rather than geographical terms. ITV defined its regions as much as the regions defined the stations they served.

Colin Weston - wonderful announcer for Granada and an icon for a station that - once - wanted to be remembered

So why has this retreat from what works best happened? Undoubtedly, ITV has become obsessed with more advertising revenue and multi channel pay TV.

They feel the need to compete on a national level to become the next NBC-style giant. That they will never do.

Sure, there may be a swish new building of 10 studios in central London with the most update equipment in the world. But the new look national ITV1 is dull and bland with stale, if tried and trusted, programming.

But ITV’s success in world beating TV always came from competing internally against each other, so the best possible programmes made it to the national network and were then sold to the world – at a profit.

In this system, ATV received the Queens award for export, while shows like London Weekend’s “Upstairs, Downstairs” are still remembered and watched worldwide.

This system encouraged LWT to be a risk taker, against its rival Thames Television’s constant production successes churned out effortlessly week in week out. Added to Granada’s gritty realism, ITV was a truly national network with local character and style.

The executives pushing towards the Granada-Carltonisation of the network should stop and take a good long hard in-depth look at ITV’s historic past.

ITV is still haemorrhaging cash, advertisers and viewers badly and needs a good old-fashioned dose of Grade, Thomas or Bernstein medicine.

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