All entries for Thursday 09 October 2008

October 09, 2008

Michael Grade (Or: Chris Morris said it best)

ITV head Michael Grade is annoying me. Check out this story over on TV Scoop for the full thing.

Basically he’s saying it’s impossible for ITV to compete commercially if they have to do public service broadcasting. If you don’t know, the government legally own the airwaves in this country. That’s why you can’t just set up your own TV channel and start broadcasting. There’s only room for a few such channels with 2 of them funded directly by the tax-payer (BBC) and the other three being given to companies to look after.

Now obviously it’s a pretty nifty deal. Imagine being given a chance to broadcast to the entire nation, your programs watch able by anyone with a TV. More to the point, your adverts, which you get paid for, watched by anyone with a TV. The government don’t just give that away for free. So what’s the flip side? When you get a broadcast license you agree to terms over what sort of programming you will show. That includes a certain number of weekly hours of educational and news coverage.

It’s a fair deal.

But it doesn’t work for Grade.

“ITV does not itself want any direct public money. We wish only to operate as a free-standing commercial business, with less rather than more regulation.”

To which I say, they’re welcome to. Just give up the rights to the airwaves. As I said earlier, the airwaves are owned by the government. Hence, the airwaves are owned by the public. They have an intrinsic value, because if you can’t do the job, we (ie. our government) can sell them to someone else instead. So you are asking for public money, just not directly.

“Universality: ITV1 is a popular national service. Viewer expectations and economics dictate that it must retain the widest coverage of the UK.”

Sorry, you don’t get to do that. You want wide coverage, you follow the rules of the agreement. You don’t, you fuck off. Simple.

“Certainty: After years of discussion, consultation and regulatory adjustments, and with an existing right to licence renewal, there is no value in the distraction of any protracted tender process for future licences with modest value.”

Basically: we want the license guaranteed.

“We expect to operate in a free market, and on fair market terms with our competitors, customers and suppliers. All future regulatory requirements beyond our commitment to programme investment and news must reflect this.”

In complete contradiction to the above they want a free market. This basically means they want to be able to compete with other broadcasters in any way they want. Except they always want to have one-up on every other broadcaster because they have one of only three analogue licenses.

Sorry but that’s not operating in a free market. In a free market we re-open negotiations for the license every 5-10 years and see if anyone else can do a better job cheaper. That’d be frustrating and annoying but if you want to compete on a totally free basis that’s the cost. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t do whatever the fuck you want in terms of programming, and expect to retain the license to the airwaves by going “But I’m fucking ITV, don’t you know who I am.”

ITV of course, feels it needs to do this because profits are down. It only made £288 million in 2006 so it’s clearly in trouble. Sure, Sky make around £400 million but that’s with internet, phone and other services oh and Channel 4? Who also have a license, arguably more restrictive than ITVs? £14.5m in 2006.

But making over 20 times more than their closest direct competitor isn’t enough.

Fuck off ITV. You don’t make anything good anyway. Either suck it up, take a drop in profits and cut the wages of the big-wigs, or fuck off. And by fuck off, I mean take your chances elsewhere. Get yourself on FTA digital, on Sky and on Cable. Then you’ll have your level playing field free-trade utopia with everyone else and can do what you want.
In the meantime we’ll see if Murdoch or someone else wants the airwaves and can manage to follow the rules.

And the bit of the blog title in parenthesis:


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