Widespread speculation that the financial woes besetting Britain's largest commercial broadcaster, ITV Network, would lead to decimation of its programme-making budgets, was refuted by reports on Thursday that director of channels David Liddiment had not only resisted the fiscal axe but had been awarded an increase.

Despite a revenue shortfall this year in the region of £350 million, an ITV insider claims that the programme budget for 2002 could be marginally up on the current level of £750m. More cash is likely to be invested in peak-time programming, possibly to the detriment of off-peak output.

If true, the news is a two-fingered response to the recent claim by Zenith Media that the cash-haemorrhaging ITV Digital platform could lead to a decline in the quality of the main network’s programme output [WAMN: 25-Sep-01].

Media agency consensus is that maintaining ITV programme quality is essential – even despite estimates suggesting ad revenue this [exceptional] month is 21% below last year and could dive overall by 15% through the winter season.

ITV’s 2002 programme schedules will be presented to agencies and advertisers on October 8.

News source: Media Week (UK)