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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 August 2006, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Industry figures offer ITV advice
By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News


Charles Allen
Charles Allen is due to leave ITV later this year
Outgoing ITV chief executive Charles Allen used his keynote speech at the Edinburgh TV Festival to defend his track record and to attack Channel 4's output and remit.

Leading media industry figures gave their reaction to the BBC News website and explained how Mr Allen's successor should turn around ITV's declining audiences and advertising revenues.

SARA NATHAN, TV EDITOR, THE SUN

Our readers are the ITV watchers, so you do get a bit frustrated because you want them to have hit shows.

I think it's going to be a lot better.

It has been a summer of doom.

But you've got a whole autumn and Christmas [ahead], a choc-a-block schedule full of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, and more.

They have to think more about [their] viewers, and not so much what Channel 4 viewers are watching - that crucial 16 to 34 age group.

It's just a shame because you want them to do really well.

They're such a loved institution.

DOROTHY BYRNE, HEAD OF NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS, CHANNEL 4

I worked for ITV when the public loved and admired it.

It really served them and it didn't just try to work out what programme might get the best rating.

It made programmes it really believed in. If you don't believe in your own programmes and your own channel, the viewers won't believe in it.

They've got to put the programmes and the programme-makers back at the centre, and worry about the programmes and the audience rather than just money and what they think advertisers would like them to do.

DAWN AIREY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BSKYB CHANNELS

There was a certain amount of nervousness that [the speech] might be a bit lacklustre but I honestly believe Charles Allen gave a tour de force.

Channel 4 might have been rather dismissive about what he had to say, as a rather embittered outgoing chief executive of ITV, but we do have to ask about the public value of Channel 4 and is the public money being spent appropriately.

I don't think there's a crisis [in ITV].

What Charles Allen outlined was a fair summation, which is that in a multi-channel world, it's very hard to maintain the complete dominance which ITV has had on [audience] share.

However, it still is the lead commercial network.

I get fed up of people telling me how I could do my job better at Sky.

I'm not going to tell people at ITV how they could do their job better because they're a rival.

PETER HORROCKS, HEAD OF TELEVISION NEWS, BBC

I think there was an element of deliberate distraction by talking pretty aggressively about a competitor channel.

It distracted people from the focus on ITV's problems - that was quite clever, a legitimate thing to do and an interesting tactic.

As a news person, there are at least as many questions about ITV's public service future as there are about Channel 4's, which is what Charles Allen is raising.

We've seen, only in the last few days, ITV reducing and shifting their commitment to news at lunchtime.

It looks to us as if ITV's commitment to news in the future is being significantly eroded.

I think it's very important that there's a proper public debate in order that a decision can be taken about whether public service is predominantly, or possibly exclusively, carried by the BBC, or whether it needs to be shared so that there are commercial public service providers as well.

EMILY BELL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GUARDIAN UNLIMITED

The first thing ITV should do is replace Charles Allen with a dynamic chief executive who can cheer people up and make some better programmes.

Beyond that, I think there's a real question about whether ITV is right at the moment to be a publicly-quoted company.

It probably isn't; it needs to invest for several years, not make profits, certainly not give money back to shareholders.

That means somebody either buying out the ITV shares and taking it private, or it being taken over by a larger company and protected.

For whoever comes in as chief executive, the programmes will be a significant part of what they have to do, but not the whole story.

ARMANDO IANNUCCI, PRESENTER AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, BBC

During a panel session in Edinburgh, Mr Iannucci said:

One of my great favourite comedies was Rising Damp - ITV did have a tradition of gritty comedies about 10 or 15 years ago.

It's to the detriment of the BBC that ITV doesn't do as much comedy.

It makes for a healthier and more creative comedy atmosphere if all the main channels are pumping money into comedy, because then it legitimises that notion of making stuff for a big audience.

I think we've grown a bit shy of that in comedy.



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