Saturday, 24 April 2010

An open letter to ITV


I read with considerable interest the article by Alexi Mostrous in the media section of today’s Times.

Apparently, The Bill “attracted an ageing audience unattractive to advertisers.” Should I therefore assume that at 45 I am on the scrap heap as being considered as ageing and unattractive to advertisers? Although, half an hour spent investigating the forums dedicated to The Bill would prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this statement is factually incorrect. The bulk of TB’s audience is in the demographic age group 16-25.

Apparently only middle class viewers are of interest to ITV, curiously I had believed that terrestrial programming (in particular) was supposed to be accessible to all? My mistake.

“Am I satisfied with the development pipeline?” Mr Norman said. “No. We’ve had some good successes. But in the last five years we haven’t [developed] a big global hit.”

I beg to differ. The British Television market has been sagging badly for many years. The very many misses far outstripping the very moderate successes. One of the reasons so many of our young actors seek employment in the USA is that we don’t make much of any worth here anymore.

In the last five years, the strongest, most innovative and ground-breaking drama programming has all come from the US. Today, this trend continues. Programmes such as The Wire, Lost, Heroes, any one of the excellent crime dramas such as NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, Numb3rs; Sons of Anarchy, Justified... the list is endless. Exciting writing, character driven plots, huge loyal followings – worldwide!

Yet what do we have to look forward to from ITV? Amongst the delights we have been promised, a re-make of A Bouquet of Barbed Wire. Delightful. A re-imagining of a programme from the seventies, which has already had one re-tread in the eighties. Personally, I found it stilted and dull thirty-four years ago, I have no intention of tuning in this time around.

Whitechapel 2? The first time around the concept was novel. A second series on the same premise would appear to be over-egging the pudding somewhat.

The truth is extremely simple. I do not believe that ITV have what it takes to find a real hit. Let alone make one. After all, they took a hit show, with a twenty-seven year pedigree, shunted it around the schedule, interfered with its execution, and then axed it before it had a chance to settle.

I am well-educated, middle-class and aspirational. I own my own business (publishing). I am therefore (apparently) the demographic you wish to target. Yet, with the axing of The Bill, I find that your programming does not meet my needs, or pique my interest.

One of the concepts behind my publishing business is to seek out the innovative, the unusual and the niche, and publish it. The mainstream does not necessarily cater to the aspirational tastes of early adopters and innovation seekers.

The same is true of British television. Terrestrial television no longer holds my interest.

Another medical drama? Why? We have Casualty and spin off. ITV had a medical drama which had the added interest of being set in the sixties. Yet The Royal, and its companion “Heartbeat” have both been shelved. Again look to the US, medical drama is amply covered and top notch in delivery. What more could a British made drama add to the genre? Or do you believe in the concept of if you loved A, you will love B? Because frankly, it’s not love we feel here, it’s déjà vu.

Audiences have changed, but some of us don’t feel that you either know or care what audiences actually want.

The Bill is a well-loved institution that ITV has endlessly played fast and loose with in the schedules. An almost unpublicised shift to Tuesdays for the rest of the run took audience numbers down further. Yet 28,296 people have signed up to a Facebook page in the cause of Saving The Bill. That is a pretty powerful statement of commitment to the programme.

Some of us are no longer prepared to play ITV’s game. When a Facebook campaign propelled Rage Against The Machine to number one at Christmas, didn’t that give you a clue? Or did you think that was solely a comment on Simon Cowell’s assumption that X Factor would give us a Christmas number one? It was as much about the disaffection with the reality dross led by X Factor as it was about a bad cover version.

In sum, we care what we watch. We want good, exciting drama. Not reality dross.


eric said...

I just can't believe the patronising dribble coming from ITV. They only have to look at the range of ages and occupations of the fans on facebook to see they are way, way, way, out of touch with the viewers.

Johnny said...

Excellent stuff. But perhaps you should take steps to make sure ITV see what you have written? It's too good an argument for them just to be allowed to ignore it. The one thing I would say, incidentally, is that it would have been nice had you more strongly told them to stop trying to beat US dramas at their own game (by making piss--poor copies) as we don't want to see that either!

Ruth said...

Well said ! I don't feel the need to say more as you have expressed my views eloquently and accurately. Shame on ITV !

Ruth said...
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Mockingbird said...

I have to admit that I love US dramas, but we need our own style. Copies are always bad.