BBC innocent, government guilty, ITV tech victim.

7 Jul


ITV did not start to fail because of competition from the BBC. They always had more money and, with their monopoly over commercial advertising on television, many ITV companies were awash with cash.

The downside was over regulation and expensive transmitter rentals. ITV was viewed by all administrations as a public service network first and commercial network second.

They had expensive rules imposed on them in respect of how much of their income had to be paid to the government as a levy on profits as well as their normal tax obligations.

The levy was the governments way of calming critics like myself who were calling for free competition and the smashing of the undemocratic ITV system of being the only commercial station in each broadcast region, the government thought it made their undemocratic system look more justifiable.

When sat and cable came along these fledgling channels had few restrictions imposed on them and were run in a very cheap style compared to ITV. This was fine but, as ITV’s slice of the advertising cake got smaller, the cost of their public service commitments  continued. It was the government who forced them into their present situation not the BBC.

When some of the rules in ITV were relaxed, ITV was already on the slide and, as their audience had got smaller, mainly due to the success of the Sky multi-channel digital platform that provided so much diversity, and the possibility of cost-effective Narrow Casting to a niche audience for the first time, ITV found themselves in a no-win situation.

The government had been slow in de-regulating the ITV network rules. With the exception of Scotland and The Channel islands the network of regions came under the control of just two companies Granada and Carlton who have continued to struggle in their pruning of cost, overheads and infrastructure.

They also lacked a credible leader, someone with the business balls of Murdoch or the flair and imagination of Ted Turner.

What we have witnessed is nothing more than change being driven by advancement in technology. If Sat tv, Digital delivery and the internet had not been invented there is a very good chance the UK would still only have a half a dozen channels with the spoils being split between a handful of key investors and the usual families of aristocrats that was the practice from 1955.

Of course, those aristocrats that were given the original ITV franchises almost as a birth right had to die, and their dependents re-educated before change could take place. That said, it was technology that the government could not regulate or control (International Sat TV controlled from beyond the UK) that drove the pace and speed of change.

David Cameron’s friends would still hanker after the old days when they could have it all to themselves. Murdoch knows this and has constantly tried to position himself and his business where he can have it all.

The Toffs look upon it as a birth right but Murdoch has had no such illusions and understands there is no free lunch. It is business acumen, flair and imagination that has carried the day for Murdoch along with some political arm twisting behind the scenes in high places. The only question now is how far can the country go in putting their trust in powerful media owners to not abuse their position?

Experience in the USA  has been disappointing in this respect with a variety of media properties. All of Rupert Murdoch’s US properties have taken a position. Murdoch would love to be in that position in the UK, but he has as many haters in the UK, as fans.

The UK is a small island, The size of the US makes him Murdoch visible, less in your face. He often operates below the radar for months, which is his prefered mode. Murdoch likes to only appear after it’s all over.

The News International affair has switched this around and he will not like it, He is now the subject of the media spotlight. The personal stakes for Murdoch and his family can not be Cal-Q-Lated.

As the situation gets worse, hour by hour, we all wait to see if his political friends desert him and feed him back to the machine that he created.



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