Media Lifeline: ITV drama

It was a key part of the channel's revival strategy, yet it is making huge and unprecedented cutbacks on its drama output.

November 2006: The BBC chairman, Michael Grade, reveals he's quitting to join ITV as its executive chairman. He states that ITV programming, particularly quality drama, is to be a high priority for him in his new role. The focus will be on long-running series.

February 2008: Grade's strategy is to be overseen by the ITV director of television, Simon Shaps. In January 2008, he had unveiled what he hailed as "the most significant" set of programming initiatives at the network in 25 years, with quality drama, as expected, at their core. This month, though, Shaps announces his departure, to be replaced by the former controller of BBC1, Peter Fincham.

November 2008: As the credit crunch bites, though, Fincham reveals he is to change tack, deferring the scheduling of at least three new drama projects and announcing that he is to commission a lot more factual programming. In his defence, he reveals that drama can cost up to £1 million an hour to make while, on average, documentaries weigh in at just £150,000 an hour.

January 2009: It's very clearly the end of an era as ITV announces that it is axing the long-running drama stalwart of its Sunday schedules, Heartbeat, and its spin-off, The Royal. Under threat, too, is The Bill - cut to one episode a week - while the Robson Green vehicle Wire In The Blood is to be scrapped completely. A nation mourns, but ITV invests in new successes such as Whitechapel and Above Suspicion.

February 2009: And there's more good news. The network announces that Foyle's War is to be granted a three-episode reprieve and Doc Martin is being lined up for a further run-out. On the downside, John Nettles announces he's leaving Midsomer Murders.

Fast forward April 2009: Now, however, there are calls for Grade and Fincham to resign when, following the success of Law & Order: UK, all home-grown ITV dramas are dropped overnight for budget-version copies of familiar US franchises. Grade hits back at suggestions that he has gone too far - adding that the critics will change their tune when they have seen the first episode of CSI: Neasden.

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