Grade slams Ofcom role

ITV boss urges industry to 'resist the nanny state' imposed by comms regulator.

The ITV executive chairman, Michael Grade, is demanding lighter regulation in the TV industry, and challenged the regulator Ofcom to "either ban TV advertising altogether or get out of our lives".

His comments were made during a panel debate with Channel 4's chief executive, Andy Duncan, and five's chief executive, Jane Lighting, at the Thinkbox Experience conference on Tuesday.

Grade and Lighting said Ofcom's restrictions were too harsh at the London event, and called for greater self-regulation by the industry, along with more co-operation between the major broadcasters.

"At a time when we really need to be pushing forward, we seem to be developing more of a nanny state," Lighting said, adding concerns that there would be further restrictions on TV advertising for alcohol and automotive sectors.

Grade also called on the industry to "resist the nanny state" that Ofcom had created. "We could work better together in resisting some of the nonsense from them," he said.

The debate also discussed the ongoing importance of TV scheduling and the challenges around the internet.

Duncan used the debate to announce the launch of advertising on Channel 4's 4oD platform and a free seven-day catch-up service. The service will pre-roll two 30-second ads, a 4oD indent and a ten-second clip from the programme sponsors before broadcasting the programme in full. However, he said there was "more work to be done" in the industry around advertiser-funded programming.

The conference was hosted by the TV trade body Thinkbox. Tess Alps, its chief executive, revealed the findings of its engagement research, which found people with personal video recorders watched 20 minutes more TV per day and 5 per cent more ads.

"TV offers sensational value at the moment; it's a valuable proposition that's only going to get better as commercial TV keeps increasing until 2012 when the digital switchover is complete," Alps added.

THE BROADCASTERS SPEAK ...

Michael Grade executive chairman, ITV: "This is a wake-up call; if we sell airtime as a commodity, you end up with programmes that are a commodity. We have to get through this cycle."

Jane Lighting chief executive, five: "I want a lighter-touch regulator. We, as an industry, need more self-regulation."

Andy Duncan chief executive, Channel 4: "TV has done a lousy job of selling as a total medium and lost sight of the main thing, which is TV is great value and fantastic at advertising brands."