Rudderless ITV - The Infighting Starts

23 August 2006

LONDON: A new boldness, hitherto conspicuous by its absence among ITV's senior hierarchy, has awoken in the wake of chief executive Charles Allen's recent resignation [WAMN: 16-Aug-06].

With Allen's departure now slated for the turn of the year, one of his senior lieutenants has weighed-in with a stinging criticism of the outgoing ceo's "shortsighted" stewardship of flagship channel ITV1.

Speaking to Tuesday's MediaGuardian, the broadcaster's controller of drama, comedy and films Andy Harries charged that the channel had lost its programming focus.

"Don't you think that the ABs [upmarket viewers] have stopped watching ITV because it has become unwatchable?", he asked rhetorically.

"Hundreds of people tell me this. There is too much clutter, and it is putting people off. ITV is so unfashionable. It doesn't have to be like Channel 4, but it should be modern. It looks like a bargain basement."

Few would disagree with that assessment - which begs the question as to why Harries waited until now to make his views known?

But with Allen now safely ensconced in the departure lounge, Harries has found his voice: "It is clear that ITV has lost its way. The key to it is that it has lost its focus on programming ... I'm not angry, I am disappointed that the channel is not as good as it should be," he said.

"[Allen] was well-intentioned, but the difficulty was that the business became more important than the channels. Charles believed that once merged, we would all become ITV. That was short-sighted."

The company, said Harries, had taken its eye off the ball in recent years: "There's been a deep complacency, combined with arrogance. ITV has been caught napping big time."

Insiders are uncertain whether Harris' outburst is tantamount to a resignation statement - or a play for power.

Whichever, there's little doubt he will have ruffled more than a few feathers within the ITV bunker.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff