ITV: King Of Cock Ups

Oh my god did you see Steven Gerrard score against the USA on Saturday night? Of course you didn't ITV were showing a bloody car commercial.
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Oh my god did you see Steven Gerrard score against the USA on Saturday night? Of course you didn't ITV were showing a bloody car commercial.

They are our “flagship” commercial broadcaster, with an annual turnover of billions of pounds, employing some of the (allegedly) most creative people in Britain, yet you wouldn’t trust them to be able to dress themselves without accidentally setting fire to their trousers.

In case you hadn’t heard, they managed to screw up their coverage of England v USA when their HD channel cut to an advert just as Stevie G was scoring our goal.  This comes a year after thousands of viewers were deprived of seeing Everton’s Dan Gosling score the winning goal against Liverpool in the dying minutes of an FA Cup replay after some dozy technician switched to an advert for Tic Tacs.

For it to happen once is unfortunate.  Twice is unforgivable.

How are they allowed to get away with it?  Surely someone should pay, preferably a bigwig such as Director of TV Peter Fincham or Chief Executive Adam Crozier?  If you or I committed a similar gaffe affecting the enjoyment of thousands of our customers, we’d quite rightly be given our P45s.

But TV doesn’t work like that. Broadcasters know that if we’re prepared to put up with a primetime series featuring Rory McGrath talking about sheepdog trials – The Lakes – or Martin Clunes visiting lighthouses – Martin Clunes: Islands of Britain - then we’ll tolerate any amount of shite they care to throw at us.  And yet it could – and should – all be so different……

Imagine if TV channel controllers were democratically appointed and publicly accountable.   After all, the winners of TV reality shows such as Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here are decided through the democratic process of a viewer vote.  So why not the people who draw up the schedules, commission the programmes and decide which presenters should be paid a salary equivalent to the cost of a new NHS cancer unit?

Yes, there is an OFF button, but we have been brainwashed through half a century of evolution never to use it.

Currently, these appointments are decided behind closed doors by a bunch of accountants, board members or shareholders who think Martin Clunes: A Man And His Dogs is cutting edge TV.  But they should be thrown open to a public vote every four or five years, general election-style.

In local and national elections, we can vote for who we want to put in charge of  traffic calming measures and immigration controls, but none of us is allowed a say in who we want controlling what is potentially the most influential and pernicious medium of mass communication in the world today.

Yes, there is an OFF button, but we have been brainwashed through half a century of evolution never to use it. Rare is the household with a TV with a blank screen. It’s like a vase without flowers. What’s the point of having a 42-inch plasma screen on your living room wall if it’s not constantly tuned in to Celebrity STD Clinic or The Hundred Funniest Moments From Hospice? Switching the box on when you get home from work or school is as instinctive as scratching your balls when you get up in the morning.

Even if you are bold enough to get rid of the box in the corner (or wafer on the wall), there is still no escaping its influence. The newspapers – tabloid and broadsheet – are full of it.  Heat magazine would be just a twinkle in a publisher’s eye without it. Then there’s the radio, with fleets of moonlighting TV presenters getting lost up their own arses in an orgy of self-referential banter.

TV seeps into every nook and cranny of our existence, more so than something as inconsequential as world politics or international affairs. And yet the people who decide what is broadcast are not democratically elected, are not publicly accountable.

We elect the MPs and councillors who govern our lives by banning smoking or putting up income tax.  But when it comes to the mind-numbing, intellectually-bereft sewage that’s pumped into our living rooms day after day, no-one is directly accountable. And so we are resigned to our fate of growing old in front of the 1,000th series of Deal or No Deal.

So wouldn’t it be great if channels had to hold fair and free elections, in which the public got to vote for whomever it thinks offers the best programme schedules? There’d be weeks of fun as prospective candidates set out their visions for the futures of Natasha Kaplinsky and Justin Lee Collins, or unveiled their budgets for Holly Willoughby’s wardrobe allowance.

Here’s what some of the existing incumbents would have to offer if they had to stand for re-election tomorrow:

Peter Fincham, ITV’s Director of Television: More technical cock-ups of breathtaking bravura, followed by mealy-mouthed apologies from cowering studio anchors; Neil Morrisey signed up in multi-million pound “golden handcuffs” deal to present series of travelogues highlighting UK’s cheese-making, woodcraft and wicker basket-making industries; Piers Morgan to host a six-part interview with himself; exclusive broadcast rights to 2011 World Toe Wrestling championships;

Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC 1: Fiona Bruce agrees to read the Ten O’Clock News wearing a leather catsuit on Fridays; all presenters over the age of 12 to be given crash course in popular culture; Fearne Cotton to be the new presenter of Panorama; Tess Daley to be replaced as presenter on Strictly Come Dancing with a yucca plant; exclusive broadcast rights (highlights package only) to Basingstoke and District Crown Green Bowls League.

Richard Woolfe, Controller of Five: Steven Seagal and Jean Claude van Damme to present updated version of It’s A Knockout; Pat Nevin to be offered improved, high carbohydrate diet; a series on the history of suicide bombing called Does My Bomb Look Big In This? Justin Lee Collins to read the news reclining in a deck chair while Natasha Kaplinsky lactates in the background.

David Abraham, Chief Executive Channel 4: Series of groundbreaking, “edgy” documentaries, including The Boy With Testes The Size of Wales and My Hell As A Heat Magazine Caption Writer; Dale Winton to be the new presenter of Time Team; New philosophy quiz show, called: If A Tree Falls In a Forest Without Amanda Holden Seeing It, Did It Really Happen?

Sophie Turner Laing, MD Sky Entertainment & News: The bulk purchase of loads of US TV series which were rejected by HBO and Comedy Central on the grounds they were unmitigated shit; Sky Two to be re-branded as Sky One +1; a weekly entertainment programme featuring video clips sent in by members of the armed forces called You’ve Been Maimed!

Alan Clements, Head of Content, Scottish TV: Raft of new “kilt-wearing” series with titles such as Made in Scotland, Scots at War, Scotland From The Air, The Greatest Scot and Scotland’s Greatest Football Team.

Oh, and by the way, in case you think this is all just too far-fetched, that last one wasn’t a joke, it really happened.  STV made and screened all those series during peak time hours last year….

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