The other side

Posted by Ian
Just what is going on at ITV?
Once, not that many years ago, it was the nation’s most-watched channel, and also the nation’s richest. An organisation infamously dubbed by one of its founders as "a licence to print money", ITV showed the world how commercial television could make decent programmes and turn in a healthy profit at the same time. It made millions of pounds for those involved both in front and behind the camera, but also gave the BBC a run for its money in terms of high class quality broadcasting.
It pulled off the trick of managing to exhibit both highbrow and populist credentials. It regularly attracted talent from around the globe. And it was the natural choice of viewing for the vast majority of the country, who, of an evening, switched on "the other side" and stayed there from teatime to bedtime.
Not anymore. ITV turned 50 last year, but rather than grow old gracefully the network seems to have almost literally fallen to pieces. It’s as if the channel has skipped middle age entirely and opted straight for an addled, antiquated existence in a pebbledash retirement bungalow.
It forgets where to put things. It’s constantly changing its mind. It frequently has trouble remembering what to do and when. And it develops demented new obsessions with alarming rapidity only to dump them with even greater gusto.
Its recent portfoilo of flops, duds and cast-offs makes for embarrassing reading. The fall-out from its most recent calamity, Love Island, continues to exercise fury and bemusement in equal measure. More and more the network is being beaten in the ratings by the likes of Channel 4, BBC2 and even Channel Five. Now, today, comes news that its boss, Charles Allen, has quit.
What’s the real story behind his departure? Is ITV in as bad a condition in private as it appears to be in public? We’re currently leading the homepage with an in-depth report on the health of what was, once upon a time, affectionally dubbed "the light channel", but which is now paying a heavy price for so spectacularly losing sight of what it used to do best: inform, educate, but above all entertain.
When ITV was blacked out by a strike for seven months in 1979, many members of the public testified to finding the emergency alternative – a blue screen with a printed apology caption accompanied by non-stop lounge music – much their favourite choice of viewing. Perhaps the network might consider falling back on such a strategy today. It’d get people watching. And it’s assuredly a step up from Prehistoric Park.
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