It’s always refreshing to see a new broom sweeping clean, and Adam Crozier, recently installed chief executive of ITV, did not disappoint as he squared up to a House of Lords select committee this week.
Among the invigorating insights he privileged us with was an admission that ITV programmes were crap. Sorry, I’ll rephrase that in commercial media-speak. ITV has been driven into a “ratings rat race” by burdensome regulations that force it to produce low-quality, cheap-to-produce, popular programming (such as The X-Factor?). When what it should be doing is investing in high-quality but low-ratings programmes about the arts (such as Lord Bragg’s recently disbanded South Bank Show).
Crozier’s agenda, is of course, to blame the woeful quality of ITV’s current schedule on Contracts Rights Renewal (CRR), which ITV lobbying has so far failed to repeal. He reckons it has cost the broadcaster £262m in lost revenue since its introduction in 2003.
That kind of argument may play well with people on the Lords communications committee (like Bragg himself) but it will be received with hollow laughter at ISBA, the advertisers’ trade association.
If ITV isn’t about building mass audiences for advertisers, then what is it about? Excuse my cynicism, but Crozier’s argument is precisely the one usually wheeled out by commercial broadcasters to batter the overmighty, “ratings obsessed” BBC. Isn’t the BBC the broadcaster which is supposed to concern itself with piddly arts programmes that cater to a minority audience – leaving the commercial boys to graze unmolested on the sunlit prairies of popular fare?
Crozier will have to do better than that if he is ever going to convince advertisers of the need for a CRR rethink.