ITV could invest more in arts, factual programming and drama were it not for regulations, its managers has told a Lords committee. Archie Norman, new chairman of the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster, and Adam Crozier, chief executive, told the communications committee that ITV had been driven into a “ratings rat race” by regulations, particularly the contract rights renewal measure that limits the increases in ad rates ITV can make when its audience goes down.
The mechanism was put in place when the last independent ITV companies merged into a national service and ITV estimates the measure has cost it £262 million (E296m) since then.
Crozier attributed a “remarkable lack of diversity” on the ITV1 schedule to the need to drive ratings, the only way to counteract the effects of the measure. It had led ITV to chase “higher-rating programmes, things like soaps and what have you”, said Crozier. Norman said it led to “lowest common denominator” shows.
Observers were surprised the new management regime at ITV should chose to campaign for removal of the scheme by rubbishing the quality of its own programmes.
The prospects for a change in regulation are slim. The Competition Commission ruled this year that it was not appropriate to relax controls because of ITV’s ability to draw mass audiences, such as the 15 million-plus who watch live results show of The X Factor.