Airey Aftermath: ITV Fails to Make the Grade

24 September 2002

For a job touted as the biggest in British commercial television, the chief executive’s post at network ITV seems awfully hard to fill.

Having lost favoured candidate Dawn Airey, ceo of smallest terrestrial channel Five, to an eleventh-hour swoop by Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB when her acceptance seemed a formality [WAMN: 23-Sep-02], the network is struggling to persuade analysts it has an adequate Plan B.

ITV was expected to turn its attentions to former Channel 4 boss Michael Grade. He, however, appears far from keen, reportedly telling friends, “I am not interested in a job offered to Dawn Airey.”

Where the ailing network will turn next remains to be seen, though analysts are becoming increasingly sceptical that it will find someone of Airey’s or Grade’s calibre.

Meanwhile, media buyers are in no doubt as to where the blame for Airey’s decision to go to BSkyB lies: ITV’s two dominant shareholders Granada Media and Carlton Communications.

Rivalry between the two firms, they believe, is harming the network. “You can just imagine the conversations between them, with one saying ‘let’s pay [Airey] this’ and the other vetoing it,” one anonymous TV buyer told

“There's no clear direction there. Instead you've got a management hodge-podge run by two sales people whose resources are being stretched beyond belief.”

The Airey debacle comes at a particularly bad time for ITV, which is in negotiations with advertisers over deals for next year and was hoping to present them with some good news.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff