A TV Tycoon Replies 

6 June 2020 tbs.pm/70349

From the New Statesman, 7 January 1972

Sir, I can see your reasons for attacking ITV as you do (Greedy TV Tycoons 24 December) and I appreciate your fears of losing press advertising revenue to commercial television. But can you seriously advocate restricting competition to protect one sectional interest? Surely this directly contradicts your own plea for democracy.

And why pick on me for this personal attack? If you had read the statements correctly attributed to me over the past few weeks, you would realise that Westward and the small regional companies are equally fearful of the effect on their revenue of another commercial channel; but we do not seek to deprive the public of television just to protect our vested interests.

I would like ITV-2 to be managed and financed by ITV, preferably without advertising; but, if a free service is unacceptable, then as a complementary system to ITV-1. If we can agree that no one wants a BBC-3, there is no organisation capable of financing the fourth channel or providing programmes other than ITV, who have the finance and the spare studio capacity to start immediately. I cannot see the Free Communications Group being any more successful than the Welsh Company which had to be rescued by TWW. The public will not watch the kind of ‘good programmes that say something worth hearing’ offered by the FCG – certainly not in sufficient number to attract advertisers. So, who is going to pay the £20 million a year required? Mr Crossman and his friends? All this just to save his weaker comrades in the press and the smaller regional companies?

I have never said I would ‘fight with every ounce of strength to stop the Big Five having it’. We do not ‘fight’ in ITV and, although our local interests mean that our ambitions are different, we work together in remarkable harmony, and our monthly industry meetings are conducted in a spirit of camaraderie on which it would be difficult to improve. (This comment was incorrectly attributed to me by a national newspaper and challenged at the time.)

From Westward’s parochial point of view, I do not want a fourth channel at all and I have never wanted it for myself. If we must have another TV channel and it can exist only on advertising revenue, I would like to see it run by a consortium of the ITV companies on an equal share basis and not divided on the basis of the present respective sizes, which stem from the original siting of the transmitters and not on merit.

All of us engaged in matters of public interest, such as television, pay little attention to inaccurate comments about ourselves. But I must protest at the unjustified and ill-informed criticism of Westward programming. I am not directly concerned in the selection or production of our programmes at Plymouth; but I have a keen, enthusiastic and loyal staff who have dedicated themselves to making programmes of local and regional interest every day for 10 years. They have also made documentary, educational, artistic, historical and religious programmes that have attained the highest awards in international television, including the coveted ‘Emmy’. Westward has won more international awards than any other British regional company of its size and I challenge you to dispute this.

Also, the policy of the new statesman seems rather erratic, as in your issue of 4 September 1970, Mr Edward Lucie-Smith made the following complimentary remarks about Westward’s programme, The Loss of the S.S. Schiller: ‘Clearly this is the kind of work which a small company can aspire to do at least as well as its bigger competitors. But it also means that intelligence must be linked to courage, a wan enough formula if one thinks about it.’

So, it is difficult to understand on what you based your denigration of Westward or your assertion that our ‘standards are the lowest of all’. What is the criterion by which we are judged, if it is not to be the record at international festivals or our ratings, which justify my pride in our programming by rising dramatically every evening for Westward Diary?

Come and see for yourself Mr Crossman. There is a welcome for friends and critics and perhaps you will revise your opinion when you have actually seen some of our programmes and met the people who produce them. Tell them what you find so distasteful in the Dairy, The Potters Art, Coastal Command, Wyvern at War and the hundred other Westward productions. We never refuse to admit our shortcomings, as long as you can show us they exist.

Peter Cadbury
Westward TV
11 Connaught Place
London W2


Dramatis personae:

  • Peter Cadbury (6 February 1918 – 17 April 2006) was chairman of Westward Television.
  • Richard Crossman (15 December 1907 – 5 April 1974) was editor of the New Statesman, having previously been a cabinet minister in the 1964-1970 Labour government.
  • New Statesman (since 12 April 1913) is a left-leaning/liberal-progressive political and literary magazine.

 

Richard Crossman. Daily Herald photograph from the National Portrait Gallery.

Russ J Graham writes: A splendidly wide-ranging rant from Westward’s Peter Cadbury against a previous article in the Staggers. As usual for someone with an ego the size of Cadbury’s, he is more concerned with being misquoted and misattributed than he is about the actual subject of the offending article. That’s not to say he isn’t offended by that either, but since he manages to argue both for and against an ITV-2, we can guess what drove him to write in the first place.

However, that’s not to say he is wrong on the subject of Crossman’s 2p-worth of thought on ITV-2. As far as I can work out from Cadbury’s diatribe, Crossman seemed to be arguing that the Fourth Channel should be created, should be advertising-free, and should not be run by the BBC. Okay, but, as Cadbury says, who will pay for it? Direct funding from the government, presumably, but that always leads to something along the spectrum between ‘starved of cash for not toeing the government line’ through to ‘controlled by the government’. Additionally, those public broadcasters funded directly by government in Europe have found that politicians can’t keep their hands off the structure, even if they don’t cut the funding repeatedly. The Fourth Channel broadcaster would find itself being continually ripped up from the ground to examine how its roots were growing by various parliamentary committees and government commissions.

I have more sympathy for Cadbury’s proposed version of ITV-2, financed and run by ITV-1 companies, although what we got ten years later with Channel 4 – financed by ITV but run independently – was probably the best of all worlds.

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