ITV's real-life crime is 'a bit tacky'

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ITV was criticised by the Independent Television Commission yesterday in its annual performance review for 1995 for focusing "too frequently on police work and crime", although the overall quality of its drama was praised.

Peter Rogers, chief executive of the ITC, said that Camera Action Live and Police, Camera, Action! had given additional concern because their use of closed-circuit television footage had raised privacy issues. While the faces of people in criminal or "dubious" circumstances had been blanked out, neighbours, family or friends could have recognised their identity from their clothes or other clues.

Camera Action Live, ITN's November documentary following the work of police throughout Britain on a Saturday night - carpeted by critics - was also slated by Mr Rogers on quality grounds, who said he "was not impressed with the quality". He added that some of the real-crime programmes were "very patchy indeed". "We have nothing against cheap programming if it works well, but some of it is a bit tacky."

But an ITV network centre spokeswoman yesterday defended the channel, saying: "Crime dramas are enormously popular with viewers. If you go into any bookshop it is the mystery, crime and related material which people are buying."

The ITC also warned of a "noticeable shift" in the overall balance of the ITV schedule toward entertainment-led programmes. Last year the channel ran more drama, entertainment and "light" factual programmes, while education, religion and arts were "often in the margins of the schedule".

Mr Rogers said that, compared with 1994, ITV ran an average extra 27 minutes a week of drama and 46 minutes a week of entertainment, but cut back on documentaries by an average 8 minutes a week and on arts by an average 4 minutes. He warned: "I think the balance has shifted. It is true to say it is at, or approaching, the limits of what it should be."

However, ITV was praised for maintaining high-quality original drama at the heart of its peak-time schedule and for providing nine of the ten most viewed dramas (excluding serials) in 1995.

Channel 4 was rebuked by the ITC for not producing enough original material and for too many repeats. But it did retain a "distinctive character" and, as required in its licence, provided a good proportion of programmes for tastes and interests not generally catered for by ITV.

The eleven police and crime shows on view this week

Monday:

Blue Heelers Australian police soap

Police, Camera, Action! Real-life police work on the streets

Tuesday:

The Bill Long-running drama set in police station

The Cook Report Investigative series exposing villains

Wednesday:

Thursday:

The Bill

Prisoner Cell

Block H Australian soap about a women's prison

Customs Classified Fly-on-the-wall footage of US customs service

Friday:

The Bill

Saturday:

The Governor Drama about a female prison governor. Last in series.

Sunday:

The Knock New customs and excise drama

Sledgehammer US detective comedy

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