Across the length and breadth of the country last week there will
no doubt have been many readers of the Daily Telegraph who applauded
YTTV’s Bruce Gyngell for his heroic stand against the irresistible tide
of filth sweeping the nation etc etc (ie substituting boring old Alan
Whicker for the not-that-raunchy Hollywood Lovers series). But in Grays
Inn Road and the inner sanctums of Carlton and Granada ...?
And what about YTTV viewers? The figures suggest they voted with their
remote controls. Whicker did badly, pulling in an all-adult rating of 12
against a network average of 15 (including YTTV). And against the
all-important 16-34 audience it was a disaster, with a rating of six
against a network average (including YTTV) of 15.
Notwithstanding this, there are probably three ways of looking at the
issue. 1) Gyngell should get some credit for putting principle before
money. 2) He’s just a quixotic old buffer who’s into a bit of harmless
posturing. 3) He’s a menace to the network.
Put it into the context of ITV realpolitik and I’d be very surprised if
ITV’s paymasters - ie advertisers and agencies, not to mention his
so-called colleagues in the ITV brotherhood - see him as anything other
than the latter.
More importantly, the YTTV move underlines the size of the gap between
ITV’s words and actions. Time and time again we hear that new ITV is
’all for one and one for all’. The reality is that this is miles off, a
point that the Gyngell episode only served to underline.
And all this at a time when, more than ever, ITV needs to demonstrate
that it really can act in unison. Let’s take a few instances. 1) In the
week ending 29 December it had just two programmes in the top ten (big
surprise, they were both Coronation Street). OK, so nobody expects ITV
to do well over Christmas, but four in the top 20?
Or ten in the top 30? 2) Whatever they say in public, Carlton Sales and
Laser are still going at each other hammer and tongs in private in the
kind of infighting that used to give the radio industry a bad name. 3)
As a network, ITV has not yet locked up some of the big advertisers it
should have - like Procter and Gamble and the Network clients. With
Channel 5 ten weeks off launch, this isn’t the best possible start to
4) Even if you look at it only as a statement of intent, Channel 5’s
half inching of the England football and rugby double-header in May from
under ITV’s nose will reassure media buyers enormously.
And then, in this climate, we have Gyngell acting like a loose cannon,
which ITV needs like a hole in the head. It was, I believe, Richard
Nixon who once asked of one of his colleagues whether it was better to
have him ’inside the tent pissing out or outside pissing in’ .
One wonders whether last week there weren’t those in ITV who were
pondering that very question.