MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Saturday TV must evolve if it is to live in the 21st century

Here's our challenge for the week. Rearrange the following words in

the order that makes most sense to you: Sir Martin, Tempus, Des, ITV,

Premiership highlights, petard, own and hoist.



No prizes for guessing that poor old Sir Martin has most definitely been

hoist by his own petard over the Tempus purchase. Seeing as the

WPP/Tempus saga is likely to drag out on appeal either way this week,

and possibly next, I'll leave comment on it to Campaign's Leader (p26)

until the issue is resolved.



Judging by the glee with which large parts of the media greeted the news

that ITV is to move its Premiership highlights to 10.30pm on Saturdays,

you might also conclude that it too has been hoist by its own petard.

I'm not so sure. I think ITV has caved in to the pressure and acted too

hastily. But then that's what happens when the going gets tough: resolve

weakens.



Sure, scheduling its Premiership highlights at 7pm was a brave move, but

it seemed to me that the problem wasn't so much the timing of the show

as its quality. Des, Terry, Ally and Andy were just, well, more First

Division than Premier League. What ITV should have done was get the

programme right and stuck with the timing.



Still, what's done is done. What the reshuffled Saturday line-up,

including the return of Cilla, reveals is just how jaded TV thinking is

- and I don't just include ITV. To read the TV listings for last

Saturday evening is to travel back to a time when families liked nothing

better than gathering round the TV together. There was Parky, Jim

Davidson, Ian Wright, Philip Schofield, Casualty, Tarrant, Vic and Bob,

Frank Skinner and Leslie Grantham presenting a Top Ten TV Villains. And

that's even before Cilla returns.



Truly, Saturday night TV is now the Night of the Living Dead.



But it was exactly this now-failed attempt to break the mould that made

ITV's 7pm scheduling of The Premiership so interesting. Now that, ahem,

normal service has been resumed, we're back in the dark ages. Meanwhile,

commercial TV wonders why advertisers are taking their budgets

elsewhere.



So whose interest, exactly, is being served by this? Certainly not the

viewers', who will surely vote with their fingers at the prospect of

being served up such undifferentiated rubbish. And surely not

advertisers, who need schedules that mix the tried and trusted with the

innovative if they are to re-engage with TV as an advertising

medium.



Instead what we apparently have is a ratings game slugged out for the

benefit of schedulers and a mythical breed of TV executive, the heads of

Light Entertainment, believed extinct the past 30 years but alive and

well and wreaking their revenge on the nation.



- Claire Beale is on maternity leave.