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)

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week