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, writes Dominic Mills.

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 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.




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