Thames faces end of an era: Maggie Brown found sadness and bitter disbelief at Euston Road

IN THE foyer, Jane Critcher, a Thames receptionist, talks blankly about losing her job at the ITV company she regards as a family: she has worked there since its inception, 24 years ago. Rob Kirk, editor of Thames News, looks out over a depleted staff of eight and an empty studio. 'It's no picnic here,' he sadly says as he prepares to sign off for the last time tonight.

Jonathan Shier, director of sales and marketing, says all but 10 of his 120 staff selling commercial airtime will be made redundant: in-comer Carlton Television could have taken over its knowledgeable team - it has secured an increased pounds 260m of revenue this year - but preferred to build from scratch.

'I'm amazed how we've kept morale up. It's the wonderful nature of the Brits, when things gets tough,' Australian-born Mr Shier, who will be redundant from next month, said. Yet all speak with astonishment about the second slap in the face administered on Friday 18 December, when the Independent Television Commission rejected Thames's application to set up the new Channel 5, its last route back to broadcasting.

Thames Television has been running promotions all week pointing to its distinguished contribution to British television: the last 70 minutes of its airtime tonight will be a compilation of its finest programmes, from Benny Hill and Take Your Pick to This Week, Rumpole and Mr Bean.

'Our deeds are on the screen,' said Richard Dunn, chief executive, who may well see out his annus horribilis by appearing briefly, in the dying seconds of the franchise before midnight arrives, to say goodbye. 'It's a big thank you to our audience.' His executive suite, like much of the building is eerily silent.

There were 1,600 staff at Thames before the 1991 franchise auction, making programmes from worthy social action and educational programmes (catering for children was a Thames speciality) to popular drama (The Bill). Now there are 500. By February there will be 140. 'The sense of waste is palpable,' Mr Dunn said.

Thames's imposing headquarters on Euston Road, central London, has been put up for sale: it was to have housed Channel 5.

The slimline Thames, shorn of its advertising revenue lifeblood, will set up shop at its Teddington studios as a lowly independent programme producer and operator of the hit satellite repeats channel, UK Gold. It has sold pounds 30m of its best-loved programmes to the new ITV for 1993.

What particularly rankles is that the ITC took no account of Thames's track record in supplying shows the audience watched, when weighing up its application against the promises of Carlton, which is employing a quarter of Thames's staff, and is committed to buying in programmes. Mr Dunn is gloomy about what will happen next: bids have to be paid for, and shareholders and advertisers now come before viewers, he says. 'The nightmare is that the foxes are in the hen coop.'

The final factor feeding his bitterness is that Carlton has taken on so few Thames staff, at its lightly-manned headquarters in St Martin's Lane, on the fringes of Soho and Covent Garden. 'It's because we're no good,' Mr Dunn said with a grim smile.

Improved regional coverage was one of the key war cries of the successful franchise holders, in Carlton's case it will be London Tonight. The show, starting on Monday, will run for an hour between 6pm and 7pm every weekday, compared with Thames's half an hour on four days. But it will dislodge the soap Home and Away (audiences around 13 million), which moves to 5.10pm.

The interesting aspect of the new service is that Carlton and London Weekend Television have jointly set up the London News Network, which produces the show, on an annual budget of pounds 10m. This is recognised, even by Thames, as sensible.

Clive Jones, managing director of LNN, also runs a new pounds 4.5m transmission suite within the South Bank tower block. This nerve centre, staffed by 18 people, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and puts out the programmes of Carlton, LWT and Good Morning TV (GMTV), the new breakfast franchise (also run from the same building) on new equipment. This is one of the most graphic illustrations of the new economics governing ITV it is possible to find. Until now there have been three separate transmission areas, at Thames, LWT and TV-am. Watching a pilot of London Tonight this week proved disconcerting. The programme, structured after audience research, turns the usual news agenda on its head by demoting traditional fare - such as politics - to a later segment.

The programme I saw opened with the night's strongest human interest item - a security guard stabbed by a junkie's needle - plus 'teasers' about the people- oriented stories coming up lower down - screened to the thrumming beat of the theme tune.

The programme hardens up around 6.40pm when managing director Clive Jones, an old pro from TV-am and TVS, judges that the commuter starts viewing and wants stronger meat.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
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
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 General

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star