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Last Updated: Monday, 9 August, 2004, 05:43 GMT 06:43 UK
From steelworks to soap operas
ITV chief executive Charles Allen (ITV)
Pace of change is a big challenge, says Mr Allen
ITV chief executive Charles Allen has managed companies in 50 countries during his wide and varied career.

Starting out in the steel industry he has even moved into microbiology, but mainly concentrated on entertainment and leisure.

During his time in business he has worked for British Steel, The Gallagher Group, Grand Metropolitan, Compass Group and Granada.

He's still not content sticking just to TV, and was chairman of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and is currently Vice Chairman of London 2012 - the UK's bid for the Olympic Games in 2012.

What was your first car?

My first car was a battered Mini which I bought for 30.

It looked like a Duckhams can - hand-painted canary yellow with a 1ft wide blue stripe from front bumper, over the roof, to the back bumper.

What was your first job?

My first real job was as a commercial trainee with British Steel in 1974.

I was paid the princely sum of 952 per year.

What was your first house?

It was a two-bedroom flat just outside Edinburgh and there was a lot of anxiety about whether I could really afford to take on the "massive" mortgage of 14,000.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

The most inspirational person I have ever met is Nelson Mandela. I admire his tenacity, his humility and what has been achieved in the past 10 years in South Africa following apartheid.

What's the best bit of business advice you've had?

I worked in the Middle East in my early twenties, and a very wise Saudi once told me "to put a little time between problems and solutions".

And, you know, every time I have done just that, I have made far better decisions.

What's the biggest challenge facing business now?

I think the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity is the pace of change in many sectors.

In the media sector, the growth of multichannel and the use of new technology will mean that more people will be able to watch more programmes - so you will never need to miss Coronation Street again, as you will be able to watch it on the bus, or the train, or on the way home.

What can the government do to boost business?

The problem is that industry is constantly being asked to comply with more and more regulations - very rarely do you really see a reduction in old regulations.

I would like to see the Better Regulation Task Force, set up by the Government, slash the volume of regulations and set annual reduction targets.

What issue in the industry is grabbing your attention?

The big issue in our industry is the future of public service broadcasting.

I believe passionately that we need a strong BBC, appropriately funded by the licence fee, with a clear remit.

The BBC Charter should be a contract to provide a range of public service programmes. Not just minority programmes; but soaps, dramas and entertainment.

I believe that the BBC should not be the sole provider of public service broadcasting (PSB) and that there should be contracts for ITV, Channel 4 and Five to be incentivised to provide PSB television.

What was the proudest moment of your career?

After 12 years of lobbying, three Acts of Parliament, two Competition Commission reviews - being able to create a single ITV was my proudest moment because, for the first time since its creation nearly 50 years ago, we have one ITV, with one vision, one focus and one management team.

ITV logo
With a market capitalisation of 4.4bn, ITV employs 6,900 staff.

The company owns all of the Channel 3 broadcast licences for England and Wales and production company Granada - maker of some of Britain's most popular TV shows such as Coronation Street.

It has moved into digital television with ITV2 and the ITV News Channel, and aims to launch ITV3 - a drama channel - later this year.


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