ITV handed a rather undeserved victory in the House of Lords
A view from Jeremy Lee

ITV handed a rather undeserved victory in the House of Lords

We are poised to undergo a televisual cultural renaissance not seen since Lord Clark catalogued the history of Western civilisation more than 40 years ago. And it will be happening on ITV.

This is not about rumours that Katy Perry and Gary Barlow are being lined up to replace Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell on The X Factor. Nor that ITV has won the exclusive rights to show the Royal Variety Performance (although options on footage of Camilla getting poked in a car are still open to all).

No, it's all thanks to the noble Lords. Remember World In Action, Survival and Jewel In The Crown? Well, they are all coming back - probably - and will be bigger and better than before. And that's just the start of it - viewers will be able to feast on other intellectually stimulating and enriching gems.

And it will be advertisers paying for this quality, UK-originated programming with "slight" increases in the amount of money that they give ITV after Contract Rights Renewal is dispensed with. But given that it will all be for the common good, then who really minds that much?

This, it seems, is what the Lords Communications Committee thinks, some of whom appear to be both blissfully ignorant of the realities of the commercial world (no disrespect to its members including the Earl of Onslow or the Bishop of Liverpool) and highly suggestible to the oleaginous charms of ITV's Adam Crozier and Archie Norman.

Aside from the fact that no-one could accurately predict - let alone measure - how much additional money ITV will make from CRR's removal, allocating a "proportion" of it (as the Lords want, although have failed to define) to this programming will be nigh-on impossible to quantify.

There are also multiple other flaws. The proposal to harmonise ad minutage, which would result in airtime inflation and disproportionately affect channels with smaller audiences, is discussed in this week's Forum and the response from the industry seems pretty uniform.

And how do we know that ITV will not put its airtime prices up, given that it is still the biggest game in town?

So Crozier and Norman seem to have played a blinder, managing to pull the ermine over their Lordships' eyes with vague suggestions about broadening the schedule, supported by Fru Hazlitt talking about getting rid of combative relationship with agencies. This totally ignores the concerns of advertisers.

ITV's business has always been about chasing ratings while the job of its sales department - quite rightly - is exerting this market power. That's what they are paid to do.

Perhaps I'm wrong and ITV will not seek to maximise its position in a post-CRR world. If so, then ITV's shareholders should be very worried.

Jeremy Lee is associate editor at Campaign