Britain’s largest commercial broadcaster, ITV1, yesterday unveiled its autumn schedules.

Leading the fight against the continuing erosion of its market share by terrestrial rival Channel 4 and cable and satellite companies is 2DTV, a new weekly satirical cartoon series featuring prime minister Tony Blair and Albion's alternative Royal Family, the Beckhams (Spice Girl Victoria and soccer star David), among other easy targets.

ITV hopes the show will emulate the spectacular success in the late 80s and early 90s of its puppet-based satire predecessor Spitting Image. The network badly needs such a boost as audience share declines and advertisers become ever more restive: “Our market is becoming more complex because almost 50 per cent of viewers now have access to multi-channel TV,” said ITV director of programmes David Liddiment.

Supporting the autumn counter-attack are a host of other initiatives, including a 'reality format' Soapstars, in which budding actors will compete for a part in ITV’s bucolic soap Emmerdale.

Among the other offerings is one believed by cynics to have been spawned by ITV’s script-department computer after infection by Red Worm: a contemporary adaptation of Othello depicting Shakespeare's anguished Moor as (sic) the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

ITV, controlled by power duo Granada Media and Carlton Communications, is currently in the throes of a diversification strategy having just launched ITV Digital [formerly ONdigital] and ITV Sport, although ITV1 remains the anchor. “ITV is now a family of brands, but none of them work on their own unless ITV1 is strong,” said Liddiment.

News source: Financial Times