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ITV programming to take creative risks

In his first big public speech since being appointed last fall, ITV’s director of television Simon Shaps offered a mea culpa and laid out a plan for modernization that he said involves taking more creative risks.

“I am going to hold my hands up and say we actually agree with some of the criticisms leveled at ITV over the last few years,” he said Thursday at the Royal Television Society.

“We have opened an invitation to writers to bring us their best work, the more original the better, and to producers to start thinking about ITV as a place that wants more than cop shows and period detectives.”

The £300 million ($567 million) that ITV spends annually on drama needed to be channeled into the best writers, some of whom have publicly criticized ITV’s dramatic fare, and be “more contemporary and less predictable,” he added.

“We should not be afraid of ideas or complexity and we should not be afraid of experimenting with the shape and format, and the subject matter, of television drama.”

ITV1 has performed erratically, to say the least, in recent years as its audience share slumped and too many shows failed to excite the public or critics.

At last week’s BAFTA TV awards ITV pocketed just one gong while the BBC and Channel 4 were celebrating another successful round of collecting kudos.

On the London stock market, ITV’s stock price is a cause for concern by investors.

Shaps, whose job is on the line unless ITV’s performance improves, said: “We are building on the past, not burying it. But we are also saying that we can and will do better.”

He admitted that ITV had “largely missed” the revolution in lifestyle programming.

“We watched in awe and envy as some vastly ambitious specialist factual series hit the screens and gathered large audiences,” said Shaps, who is leading a new team at ITV as the operator sets out to compete more successfully against the BBC and Channel 4.

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