ITV problems public

Exec seeks freedom from regulatory burden

LONDON — As Blighty media watchdog Ofcom prepares to review public service broadcasting, ITV director of programs Nigel Pickard called for the commercial net to be freed from its public service shackles to help it compete in an increasingly commercial environment.

Pickard said that role should be shouldered by pubcaster the BBC and state-owned Channel 4.

Market pressure

His plea came as he gave the annual British Academy of Film & Television Arts lecture on Wednesday night, a day after the merger of ITV’s Carlton and Granada was greenlit. “We’re fast approaching the point where special interests can no longer be accommodated on a mainstream channel that has to work harder than ever to earn its keep,” said Pickard.

While the network must program a certain number of hours of arts, religion and current affairs, Pickard warned that it would be inevitable “that there will be an increasing focus on those genres that sit more comfortably on a mass channel.”

Pickard pointed to its multimillion-dollar investment in original TV drama as a more important indicator of its public service role.

Maintaining standards

He also reiterated that if a U.S. investor, such as billionaire Haim Saban, snapped up ITV, its license would not allow the death of arts, religion and current affairs programming.

“So, Mr. Saban get your reading glasses out,” he added. “ITV’s regulatory obligations are part of the deal.”