ITV Boss Tests Temperature of Water on Exiting PSB

10 October 2008

LONDON: Michael Grade (pictured), executive chairman of Britain's largest commercial broadcaster ITV, yesterday ran his favourite bête noir up the flagpole to see if anyone in government (or its remote-controlled automaton Ofcom) saluted.

What Grade hates – really, really hates – is the broadcaster's public service broadcasting obligation, a burden factored into ITV's conditions of licence. 

What, initially, was no more than a minor inconvenience, a quid pro quo for a "licence to print money", has transmuted over the years into a major financial drain, exacerbated by ITV's continuing decline in advertising income.

Addressing a Royal Television Society Patron Breakfast earlier this week, Grade stated that ITV would "prefer to remain a licensed PSB, if justified economically". Then came the "but …"

He floated a hypothesis in which ITV might relinquish its PSB commitments  to become solely commercial operator – a decision that would sharply hike its licence fee.

Said Grade: "One option, for example, might be for news in the nations [England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] and regions to be provided longer-term by a publicly funded third party, and carried by ITV by agreement.

"The issue is not who provides it, it is how it will be paid for," he added during a post-speech interrogation session. "We will do it for as long as we can.

"The issue [with PSB] is how it gets paid for so it can be guaranteed … We can't guarantee it. The word 'guarantee' is the key thing."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff