Written by TV

Roger Graef in Broadcast

Acclaimed film-maker Roger Graef has written an excellent essay for today’s Broadcast (subscription only).
A few extracts:
Now celebrating its 50th year, [ITV] has been a source of important landmark programmes in ways too often from unacknowledged in teh PSB debate. Pressure from advertisers and shareholders led to the shameful reduction of its current affairs output – down to rare docs plus Tonight with Trevor McDonald. Put PSB obligations coupled wiuth a major contributor to the national conversation produced recent powerful dramas like The Second Coming and Bloody Sunday.
He goes on to mention September Mourning and Secrets of the Iraq War.
Enough, one might think, to win more commissions.
No. Since the Carlton/Granada merger, the value of impact and breadth over numbers has been eclipsed. ITV painted itself into a corner to achieve the merger. It promosed worried advertisers to maintain or increase their share of the purely commercial audience.

Then he gets into the part that interests me the most.
ITV is lobbying hard to shed its PSB [Public Service Broadcasting] obligations to arts and religion and a range of its regional programmes – fo purely commercial reasons, as if that made it self-evidently right. But doesn’t it live in the same world as the resut of us? Doesn’t it know arts are key to most urban revivals? That more people go to museums and galleries than to football? That The South Bank Show actually increased its audience by 25% in the last year?
And can it be serious about dropping religion? We’re not talking about
Songs of Praise. This is the issue of the 21st century – along with science, which has also almost vanished from our screens. With Bush, Blair and Sharon dragging us into crusades against Muslim fundamentalism, religion is again the engine of wars and debates in all the circles of power. Perfect time to hide our heads and count the ratings.
There is much more in this very worthwhile essay, and little for me to disagree with. Sometimes I feel like I’m banging the same old drum again and again, but I feel strongly that our television is being degraded before our eyes. It’ll be interesting to see what ITV rolls out for its 50th anniversary. I understand that there’s a five part documentary being made which’ll no doubt air late night on Sundays in The South Bank Show’s slot, because frankly it’ll be embarrassing to look at the riches of its televisual past and then compare them with today.
Another part of today’s Broadcast mentions that ITV want another series of I’m A Celebrity this year. Following hot on the heels of Hell’s Kitchen, that’s at least six weeks a year of primetime taken out of the equation. At least we don’t face months of it like Channel 4 forces us to accept.