Grade appointment welcomed

Advertisers urge new ITV chairman not to make swinging changes to the network's management team.

The recent appointment of the BBC Chairman, Michael Grade, as the new executive chairman of ITV has been welcomed by advertisers, but they have urged him not to make huge changes to the network's senior management team.

Although ITV's programming has provoked a great deal of criticism, the feeling in the advertising market is that Grade should leave the director of television, Simon Shaps, to get on with his job. There's a wide-ranging call for a period of stability following a turbulent 12 months.

Agencies and advertisers are in agreement that a focus on programme quality must be a priority, even taking precedence over the difficulties surrounding Contract Rights Renewal - the trading mechanism by which advertising rates are capped. It was introduced when Carlton merged with Granada to create ITV.

Nigel Cowlin, the head of media and communications at Unilever, said: "His first job is to make programmes people want to watch by choosing the right product."

Bernard Balderston, the associate media director at Procter & Gamble, said he would like to see a "minimum number of changes made in the short term".

He added: "If ITV keeps changing management in programming, it will be to the overall detriment of the network. Shaps has hardly had time to stamp his authority on the channel."

There was a palpable sense of relief from the advertising community when the network announced the appointment of Grade, bringing to an end a four-month search for a successor to the former ITV chief executive, Charles Allen.

GroupM's chief operating officer, Nick Theakstone, believes that the arrival of Grade marks a watershed moment in ITV's troubled past.

He said: "ITV has turned a corner. It's got some great programming coming up."

The hiring of Grade was also applauded by the City, which has rebuked ITV over its programming and declining audience figures.

Paul Richards, an analyst at Numis, was positive about the move, but said ITV needed to focus on its online development, as well as programming.

He said: "CRR is important not just for ITV, but for the whole ad industry."

- Forum, page 6

- Perspective, page 23.

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