I read the news today, oh boy… 

28 September 2003 tbs.pm/824

The sorry saga of ITV’s journey downmarket continues.

Like an alcoholic always going to have “one last drink”, the executives at the Network Centre want to have the kudos of broadcasting News at Ten without actually transmitting it. An ideal solution, of course, would be for an experiment in mass hypnosis, where the politicians, media pundits and opinion formers (none of whom actual watch ITV) think it’s going out, when in reality the slot could be used for another “Motorway Accidents from Hell” episode.

The latest wheeze, it seems, is to have their cake and eat it by following a 90-minute populist slot at 2100 with the News at Ten-Thirty. But wait! Will they be any more successful starting it on time at ten-thirty than they were at ten?

In the ‘golden era’ of ITV, which this writer knows exists, even if Peter Bazelgette doesn’t, it was perfectly possible to start a programme on time. How did they do this? By the simple expedient of selling advertising slots to fit the space available. After all, if they could show a clock calmly ticking up to the hour for forty years, what would be the problem doing it now?

But these days we have the grotesque assertion that adverts have a life of their own. They breed in the slots provided. The transmission controllers have no control over the transmission. The adverts are suddenly “over-running”.

Well, excuse me. This is about as cynical as life at ITV can get these days.

The reason that News at Ten has been starting three minutes late for these last few years is the inability of the accountants to resist the temptation of running two ‘advertising hours’ together (it’s that bottom line again, folks!).

Because ITV has (lately) been woefully short of the AB classes the advertisers really want to reach, they have taken the only programme that gets near this audience on a regular basis and have used the ‘averaging’ process (so advertising time from one hour can abutt the time from the next) to exploit a system set in place in 1955.

That ITV should now claim, cynically beyond even what we’ve come to expect of them, that “ITV News” is damaged by the ‘inherent’ flaws in a system that worked for most of its history is simply craven.

How dumb do ITV executives think the journalists who retail their press releases are? What are they, ITC commissioners?

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Kif Bowden-Smith Contact More by me