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ITV warns over public service remit

The ITV chief Michael Grade warned today that the independent broadcaster could be forced to give up its public service remit because it costs too much.

The channel's executive chairman hit out at "a whole host of nanny state regulation" which would be swept away if ITV renounced its status as a public service broadcaster (PSB).

"I think we have a future as a public service broadcaster provided that we can get Ofcom and the Government to realise very, very quickly that we cannot afford to pay more than the licence and the PSB status is worth," he said.

"Ofcom estimates that to be around £45 million a year. It's presently costing us over £220 million a year.

"If we can't get quick resolution to that then, obviously, as Ofcom itself outlined in its recent consultation paper, there is an option for ITV to give up its public service status.

"We don't want to do that."

Mr Grade insisted ITV was already meeting its public service obligations with the more than £1 billion a year it invested in UK productions.

He added: "It's not a threat, it's a realistic scenario, which Ofcom itself has proposed."

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Grade said a non-PSB ITV would continue to provide regional news - albeit "in a configuration that meets the modern world" - as well as impartial national and international news.

Challenged as to what would be lost, Mr Grade said: "A whole host of nanny state regulation, about where we put advertising minutage, how we have to treat our suppliers... the contracts we enter into with independent producers are controlled by a regulator.

"This is all Alice in Wonderland, this all belongs 20 years ago. It's so out of date."