ITV, the United Kingdom’s main commercial TV web, has settled on a network program budget of a little over T515 million ($ 824 million) for 1993 — almost T50 million ($ 80 million) less than the minimum figure suggested by the Independent Television Commission at the time of last year’s ITV license auction.

The cut reflects the growing financial pressure on many of the 15 regional ITV stations that make up the network and provide the budget.

But Marcus Plantin, ITV’s network director, rejected suggestions that the cut would lead to a decline in program standards. “I very much doubt you’ll be able to spot that the autumn 1993 schedule is any different in quality from the autumn 1992 schedule,” he said.

Nonetheless, ITV chief exec Andrew Quinn made it clear last week that he was going to try to “drive prices down” for programs, and that in the future it will be increasingly rare for ITV to provide 100% financing for a production.

This will leave program suppliers searching urgently for deficit financing, and looks likely to push British producers increasingly into the arms of overseas production partners.

Striking a compromise

The 1993 network budget, which will be submitted this week to the ITV Council for approval, is a compromise between the wealthy ITV companies, such as Central TV and LWT, who wanted a higher program expenditure to consolidate ITV’s ratings lead, and poorer stations, such as Yorkshire Tyne Tees TV and HTV, who desperately need to cut costs.

Before the ITV auction, the ITC issued suggested a range (at 1993 prices) of T560 million ($ 896 million) to T600 million ($ 960 million), into which it expected the 1993 network budget to fall. This was intended as a guideline to help applicants fix the size of their cash bid, but had no binding force.

Responsibility for spending the budget falls to the ITV Network Center, a new body headed by Quinn and Plantin, which has been set up to commission and schedule ITV’s national programming.

Plantin yesterday announced the appointment of Granada TV’s Stuart Prebble as controller of network factual programs.

In the next few weeks he is tipped to appoint indie producer Linda Agran as controller of network drama and Yorkshire TV’s Vernon Lawrence as controller of entertainment.

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