Meeja: Racists, homophobes and a five-year plan

ITVAs an outsider with an avid interest in the media (or meeja, as it’s called in pockets of Ireland), the story of ITV in the UK has become increasingly interesting – if a little bizarre. The group’s flagship ITV1 station has been on a slippery slope downwards in terms of ratings these past few months so really it should come as no surprise that the top brass Michael Grade has come out with some fighting talk today… if only to result in the trade unions organising a few angry mobs to be sent to him in the next few months.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Grade, a pro at all this media lark supposedly, came out with a five-year plan that would see ITV be recognised as Britain’s ‘first source of free entertainment’ by 2012, overtaking the BBC in the process! Oh what delight, surely the ITV shares would be sky-high by this evening. Oh wait, they’re not. Why? Because in order to get to the top, a few ‘eggs’ need to be broken. Firstly, Grade wants to see more money spent on production – to double it to around £2.5 billion. In order to do this ITV will need to merge some of its regional newsrooms, which naturally enough will lead to job losses.

A bit like the HSE in Ireland, ITV lets its own staff know about bad news in the form of ‘strictly confidential’ emails. Oops. It’s only gone 7 p.m. and already the NUJ are on ITV’s case. It has been worked out that the budget for regional news will be halved and the number of bulletins slip from 17 to 9. News is not entertainment and Grade has decided that ITV’s money is much better spent on things like The X Factor rather than local news.

A word of warning to Michael Grade, though. ITV have a habit of very, very bad decisions in the past ten years. The embrace of ITV Digital was such a good idea on paper, but such a flop with the audience that not even a puppet monkey and Johnny Vegas could save it. Premiership football was also a good idea on paper, especially at 7 p.m. on a Saturday evening. Not even Andy Townsend’s silly graphics could save that being panned.

This week alone, the ITV story has been bizarre in itself. The news that Trevor McDonald was cleared for calling deceased comedian Bernard Manning a ‘white bastard’ was greeted with sighs of relief in the board. (It was decided that Trev was doing it ‘in the style’ of the deceased comedian… nope, can’t disagree with that) Then, another off the cuff remark got the station in trouble. Jim Davidson did his reputation the world of good (and took a leaf out of Bernard Manning’s book) by calling gays ‘shirt lifters’ that ‘all looked the same’. Token Irish gay lad Brian Dowling screamed, the producer’s freaked and Davidson was shown the door.

ITV PlayIn fairness, anything that comes after the Celebrity Big Brother will be treated with zero tolerance, particularly with ITV being caught up in the phone-in row. ITV Play, the group’s digital channel for housewives and insomniacs who like to lose a lot of money, was another curious oddity that was scrapped after the phone-in row and its ITV1 spin-off will face the chop under the new plans. Often the telly has been turned on at around 12.30 a.m. to see the over-enthusiastic presenter ask a question such as ‘Name things that follow the word fish’, only to see the exact same question being posed two hours later. (It’s likely that the answers would be ‘hook’, ‘gun’, ‘handkerchief’ and ‘marmalade’… or something equally ridiculous)

Waffler still enjoys a good laugh and recalls the story where ITV Play got in a bit of bother from Ofcom over the answers to their questions. One example:

‘What items might be found in a ladies’ handbag?’

Answers:

  • Rubber Band
  • Contact Lenses
  • Directions
  • Rawl Plugs
  • Driving Licence
  • Plane Tickets
  • False teeth
  • Balaclava

Ah yes, I do enjoy when a woman slips her hand into her bag, not to powder her nose, but to get those rawl plugs out… how romantic….

Here’s what we’ll miss. Sniff.

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~ by waffler on September 12, 2007.

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