British television network ITV is under fire from its regulator for showing too many soap operas and providing “patchy, predictable and derivative” programming.

The unprecedented criticism is part of the Independent Television Commission’s appraisal of the network’s performance in 2002. This is the ITC’s last such report before new communications watchdog Ofcom takes over the reins.

Of particular concern to the ITC is the ubiquity of soaps on the network. ITV’s decision to broadcast five episodes a week of Coronation Street and Emmerdale is “posing a threat to diversity in peak-time,” the watchdog blasted.

However, soaps are not the only object of the regulator’s wrath. It complained that after a string of celebrity interviews the network’s flagship current affairs show Tonight with Trevor McDonald “stretched the definition of current affairs to its limit.”

Also under fire is ITV’s documentary fare, dominated by “predictable” programmes suffixed …from Hell or prefixed Confessions of….

The ITC acknowledged that 2002 was a difficult year for the network, as falling ad revenues and the closure of cash-burning pay-TV platform ITV Digital took their toll. According to Sarah Thane, director of programmes and advertising at the ITC, the broadcaster had no choice but to show repeats and extra soap episodes as there was not enough cash for drama production.

However, Thane added that ITV’s performance so far in 2003 has improved after its programming budget was hiked by £100 million ($157m; €145m) – a view shared by ITC chairman Sir Robin Biggam and ceo Patricia Hodgson.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff