Ending ITC's ruling could reinvigorate daytime TV

Sad news this week that 'Crossroads' is being axed after ITV1 aborted a second attempt to make the teatime soap successful. It seemed a shame that its fate relied on the introduction of Jane Asher as a 'soap superbitch', the equivalent of casting the rival baker, Mr Kipling, as Nick Cotton in 'EastEnders'. Needless to say, viewing figures fell below 1.5m, writes Ian Darby.

Anyway, 'Crossroads'' demise leaves ITV's new director of programmes, Nigel Pickard, and the daytime controller, Liam Hamilton, scratching their heads for a replacement in the 5pm slot. It also leaves me wondering just what purpose daytime TV serves for advertisers.

The acres of airtime between breakfast news and 6pm seem to attract an audience in four unattractive groups. The housewife: potentially useful for soap powder, nappies and biscuits. The student: of little use to any terrestrial TV advertiser barring Wheat Crunchies and Linda McCartney's. The long-term unemployed: ideal fodder for the dodgy loan sharks offering unsecured finance through shoddy DRTV ads. The retired: generally set in their ways and unwilling to exchange high-ticket items until they fall apart.

Within these groups there are few punters worth attracting but ITV, Channel 4, Five and some of the multichannel players might as well put up a fight to get what they can. ITV's resolve in addressing daytime has been sharpened by the realisation that it is dragging down its overall audience share. In clawing back daytime audiences, it can fight the BBC more effectively in other dayparts.

Good luck to ITV in replacing 'Crossroads'; it will need it if past performance, such as the loss of 'Home & Away' to Five, is anything to go by. One interesting avenue it might have pursued to fill airtime is the supernatural programming popular on cable and satellite. However, the Independent Television Commission takes a dim view of terrestrial channels airing this in daytime.

This is another shame, as Living TV's documentary showing the attempts of a US psychic to contact the spirit of Princess Diana would look great in ITV1 daytime.

Apparently, the original plans to broadcast a live seance would have exploited Diana's memory for profit and entertainment (the two mantras of any successful commercial broadcaster). So I suggest the whole of daytime be revamped with these at heart. More home improvement, more Aussie soaps, more cheesy chat shows.

But, most importantly, the ITC rules dividing editorial and programming should be thrown out during daytime. Product placement and sponsorship could become even more overt, ending the need for countless financial services DRTV ads. Why not give advertisers infinite ways to flog their products by sponsoring presenters, product placement in gardening features, etc etc? It would be more entertaining, and less misleading, than some daytime ads.

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