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ITC shrugs off attack on Granada

Granada TV, one of the ITV network’s largest regional stations, has come under fierce attack from the opposition Labor Party for being “seriously in breach” of its new broadcasting license.

Labor’s broadcasting spokeswoman Ann Clwyd made a public appeal yesterday to the government and the Independent Television Commission to consider revoking Granada’s license.

She accused the company of “broken promises about the quality of programs, boardroom greed, sackings, and making life impossible for those capable of producing high-class television.”

But neither the government nor the ITC showed much interest in Labor’s allegations. The government said responsibility for monitoring ITV companies rest solely with the ITC, and the ITC indicated it had been watching the changes at Granada and had seen no reason to take action.

Labor’s complaint seems destined to go nowhere, but it does highlight a growing concern about the program standards of the ITV web under the new regulatory regime, which came into force this year.

The whole ITV network is currently suffering a major structural upheaval, following the start of the new broadcasting licenses on Jan. 1. New financial pressures upon the ITV companies are forcing fundamental changes in the way they do business.

The Labor Party has seized on Granada as the most visible example of these changes. Its anger has been prompted by the comprehensive overhaul of Granada TV’s management and operations since the company won its new ITV license 18 months ago.

Gerry Robinson, the new chief executive of the parent Granada Group, forced out Granada TV’s longtime boss David Plowright, a man heavily identified with ITV’s past programming glories, shortly after the firm got its new license. This began an avalanche of firings and resignations of senior staff.

Today, only two of the 13 directors who led the company into the 1991 ITV auction remain in place, and the work force is being cut by more than a third. The broadcasting union BECTU is a prime mover behind Labor’s complaint.

“This is a story of boardroom savagery, the likes of which British TV has never seen,” said Clwyd. “It presages disaster for British TV and provides a staggering indictment both of the system which Margaret Thatcher set up for the franchise application, as well as the way in which the ITC under Sir George Russell has subsequently shut its eyes to what is going on at Granada.”

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