Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Norman's 'irresistible' ITV challenge

Archie Norman
Archie Norman is a former Asda chief executive and Tory MP

Replacing Michael Grade as chairman of ITV is an "irresistible challenge", Archie Norman has said.

With the commercial television industry in dire straits because of a massive downturn in advertising revenue, his new job will certainly be a challenge. There are those in the industry, though, who would disagree that it is an irresistible one.

In the first half of this year, the broadcaster made a pre-tax loss of £105m.

And in October, it said it was hoping to raise £120m - by selling bonds - in an effort to reduce debt.

Providing a solution to the broadcaster's financial woes is not the only problem Mr Norman will be expected to get to grips with.

One of his first jobs will be to find a new chief executive - ending a search which has been ongoing since April.

Grade, who is stepping down from the company, had been both chairman and chief executive.

STV dispute

In September, it was announced that talks with former Sky boss Tony Ball about becoming chief executive had broken down.

Mr Ball was unhappy about ITV's proposed candidate for chairman - former Reed Elsevier head Sir Crispin Davis, who also subsequently pulled out of the running.

On the other side of the camera, ITV, like other broadcasters, has been accused of neglecting quality drama in favour of reality TV shows.

Michael Grade (file photo)
Michael Grade announced in April he would be stepping down

The company's production arm, ITV Studios in Manchester, has suffered a series of cutbacks.

And in July, screenwriter Jimmy McGovern said that Bafta-winning series The Street - made by ITV Studios for BBC One - would not return for a fourth series because of those cutbacks.

Also on Mr Norman's radar will be the continuing dispute between ITV and Scottish broadcaster STV.

While ITV owns all the former regional Channel Three stations based in England and Wales, STV, UTV in Northern Ireland, and Channel TV in the Channel Islands are still independent companies.

ITV is suing STV for £38m, saying it is in breach of network agreements by dropping programmes including The Bill and Doc Martin, while STV has counter-sued for £35m.

STV has launched a further legal action over commercial agreements made by ITV without its consent.

Mr Norman will be buoyed, though, by the continued success of ITV big-hitters, including talent shows The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent.

Last week, it was reported that ITV was selling 30-second slots in X Factor advertising breaks for £190,000, with some analysts predicting that could rise to £250,000 for the show's final in December.

At the beginning of November, meanwhile, ITV said its net advertising revenue would grow 4% in December.

That follows falls of 3% in October and 1% in November.



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SEE ALSO
Archie Norman to be ITV chairman
18 Nov 09 |  Business
STV sues ITV in new legal action
17 Nov 09 |  Scotland
ITV predicts advertising upturn
05 Nov 09 |  Business
Double blow to ITV chairman hunt
12 Oct 09 |  Business
Tony Ball and ITV end job talks
25 Sep 09 |  Business
Grade to step down as ITV chief
23 Apr 09 |  Business

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