Media: A moment with Marquis

Television is dead. Long live television. That is the gist of the current debate about our love/hate advertising medium played out, mainly of course, in the pages of the trade press.

You can spot a crisis by the number of people denying there is one: a stout and articulate defence of TV by Chris Locke in the letters page (Campaign, 6 October); a big group hug for Tess Alps (wondering over her Horlicks whether or not the move to Thinkbox was such a smart move after all) and a warm endorsement by Campaign's editor herself ... something must be seriously amiss in Tellytubbyland.

What to think? Terminal disease? Months to live? No, television - get over it. A couple of strong paracetamol, three fingers of decent malt and a few days in bed should do it.

Television has got problems, that much is obvious. ITV, the flagship, has made a total cock-up of the last few years. It bleated for a merger, got it, then moaned about the terms on which it was granted. Its programming touch has been - with few exceptions - woeful; its ratings slipping, its revolving-door management a joke, and its failure to entice anyone into the vacant CEO's chair now a toe-curling embarrassment.

The boom in internet advertising, a damp-squib World Cup and a sluggish advertising market have not made the picture any prettier. And, let it be owned-up to, most television advertising is pathetically low-grade: recycled humour, lamentable branding and tragically poor selling power, all produced at pull-the-other-one expense. Despite all this, TV is not dead. Some television companies may be looking a bit peeky, but not television per se. And not television advertising.

We do get confused about media because we fail, continually, to distinguish between distribution and content. TV channels have big questions to answer - principally of broadband. But content is what gets audiences and the big channels have it. If you own The X Factor or Big Brother or Jamie Oliver or Ant and Dec, you're on the money, whereas if you own one tiny slot on the programme guide and you're buying second-hand junk on the global telly markets, you're buggered.

What TV needs is confidence. It is scared of the internet and it is scared of competition. It is scared of design and direct marketing and PR. It needs to see itself for what it is. TV is the media's medium and that it has content the world will want for evermore - good pictures and good words brought to you - wherever you are and whatever piece of digital gadgetry you have in your pocket or on your living room wall.


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