Grade calls for ITV celebrities to take pay cuts

LONDON - ITV boss Michael Grade wants stars such as Simon Cowell, leading 'Coronation Street' actors, and Ant and Dec to take pay cuts in the spirit of 'sharing the pain' after the broadcaster's decision to slash jobs.

Grade told the Sunday Times that the big names would not be paid as much as in the good times, when many were given lucrative long-term deals such as Cowell's £20m three-year contract agreed in December 2006.

Some senior 'Coronation Street' actors have already had their contracts renegotiated as part of ITV's cost-cutting efforts, which include the reduction of its workforce by around 1,000 to 5,000 by early next year.

Grade said: "When there is a downturn of this severity, everybody has got to share the pain -- the talent, the independent producers, the in-house producers.

"When Tesco goes through an economic downturn, it goes to its suppliers and says you have got to help us -- everybody works together to get through it."

However, Ant and Dec are likely to be insulated from the downturn given their three-year "golden handcuffs" exclusive contract, estimated at £15m each, runs until the end of 2009.

At the time their contract was agreed ITV was aggressively competing with the BBC for top talent. It reportedly helped to drive up the cost of Jonathan Ross's three-year BBC contract to £18m by offering him £15m to join it in June 2006.

But Grade now believes those days are over, saying: "Undoubtedly, the natural trend of the talent market is down because the BBC is not that flush with money and Channel 4 is hurting. Who else is in the bidding for the big talent?"