from where I stand: Leslie Hill looks at quality programming amid multiple channels

Britain is two weeks away from its first glimpse of a new Broadcasting Bill. The Queen's Speech is expected to introduce significant cross-media ownership proposals, as well as shape the new digital television industry, embracing, perhaps, as many as 30 and 40 new channels. And ITV ownership arrangements may be given a further tweak. With the new BBC Charter making its way through Parliament this autumn, British broadcasting will, once again, be under the microscope.

Parliament will be legislating for an industry that has just gained a fifth channel and which has the digital terrestrial and satellite revolution breathing hard down its neck. There will be plenty of opportunities, but no certainty about how they can be used. Or how this new array of channels will interact with each other.

That is why ITV commissioned a report by the media consultancy Spectrum, which is published today. As the report shows, the established broadcasters contribute considerably more - economically, socially and culturally - than is assumed. Spectrum calculates that the value of ITV's contribution to the UK is pounds 2bn a year - serious money, and more than half the economic contribution of all British television. Compared with the rest of Europe, our main terrestrial channels - BBC and ITV - invest more in programming, show fewer repeats and sustain a stronger production base than any other country. ITV is the most popular channel in Europe. Why? Because big investment in high-quality original programmes wins big audiences; big audiences win big advertising revenue, and that revenue enables us to invest in high-quality original programmes. A virtuous circle.

Between them the BBC and ITV make more than 80 per cent of new UK programmes. What has enabled them to be twin pillars is that successive governments (despite the ITV licence auction) have created an environment to nurture their strengths. But the landscape is changing. Technology means greater choice. As well as Channel 5, there is satellite and cable, plus the imminent digital revolution. And there's the rub. Because so far, even with the arrival of many new channels, there has been little commensurate increase in new television programmes.

The new services offer mainly films, sport and US programmes, which is fine. As far as it goes. As long as viewers still have Coronation Street and Pride and Prejudice, the choice is genuinely more extensive.

What the new channels, with their reliance on small niche audiences, are unlikely to provide is a wide range of originally made, high-quality, popular programmes.

The conclusion reached by Spectrum is that if we are serious about wanting to continue to have the most successful television industry in Europe, we need the BBC and ITV to remain strong. If either weakens, there is little prospect of any other channel replacing them.

This does not mean we should seek protection. There is no doubt that, so far, competition has proved beneficial. As a commercial operation, ITV is now an infinitely better managed, streamlined channel than it was. The BBC has also shown itself ready to make tough decisions. What we do need, however, is fair and balanced competition.

Change and more competition, like death and taxes, are inevitable. What is important is how it is managed. When Parliament comes to legislate for broadcasting it must look at the whole edifice, not just at one corner. Pulling out one brick, like the present Channel 4 safety-net funding mechanism, for example, could have much wider consequences. The Channel 4 funding mechanism is due to be reviewed in 1997. That will be the year before the Independent Television Commission has to decide how it will deal with those ITV licences whose owners seek to renegotiate payments to the Treasury. The relationship between the payments ITV makes to the Government - likely to be well over pounds 400m a year by then - should be considered in the context of broadcasting as a whole, including the arrivals of Channel 5 and digital.

And when Parliament comes to judgement, it should, from where I stand, have as its primary objective the use of our great creative talent in making TV programmes. We are a world-class success story. Let's keep it that way.

The writer is chairman of ITV.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine