Media: A Moment with Marquis

ITV won't revert to its old ways, Gary Digby says (Campaign, 16 September). On the same day, Charles Allen calls for the abolition of the contract rights renewal spending cap. You couldn't make it up, could you? My contacts say there are two chances of that happening, Charles - fat and slim.

All this in a week that sees ITV clock up the half-century and the media world wonder whether Graham Duff's departure is such a good thing. It would be churlish in the extreme not to herald ITV's achievements over the past 50 years, but it is hard not to remark on its equal propensity for mammoth gaffes.

Duff was never one to shut up when it was good for him and he must sometimes have felt to ITV management like their resident Victor Meldrew. But the place can be excessively frustrating and in his four years there, Duff never quite acclimatised to ITV or ITV to Duff. He'll feel well out of it.

What you see with Duff is not what you get. What you see is a bald, West Ham-obsessive, Cockney-vowels (he was born in Yorkshire), pint-of-lager-in-hand man of the people.

What you get is a considerate, intelligent man, worried to death about whether he's good enough (he is), someone who cares hugely about his people, someone who whittles down his options into an actionable plan and gets on with it.

Duff welded together a new sales team for ITV and brought in capable new people to effect a much-needed change of style - a considerable achievement.

Above all, Duff is a client man. Nearly a decade in senior roles at Zenith persuaded him that the client comes first, middle and last. He is also - and I know because we worked together for nearly four years - a great colleague and a natural leader.

Whatever the specific reasons for Duff's departure from ITV, it is regrettable, to say the least, that a man possessed of all these qualities could not be absorbed more effectively into the company.

Nearly 20 years ago, at an infamous conference in Copenhagen, ITV reached its nadir of arrogance, complacency and lack of respect for its paying customers. It has taken most of the intervening period to banish those unfortunate traits, so it is very much to be hoped that the departure of this redoubtable champion of client service does not signify a return to the bad old days.

Will 50 turn out to be a great milestone for ITV, or the first sign of a midlife crisis?

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