A ‘women’s’ TV channel majoring on lifestyle and reality programmes is an innovation that nobody’s been waiting for

ITVBe, like Bic’s easy-grip pens For Her and Cadbury’s low-cal women’s chocolate bar, is not an invention to celebrate

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The Independent Online

It has been a great week for women. One of the best. On Wednesday a load of them (five) had a fun day out to the front benches of the House of Commons where they were allowed to sit behind the Prime Minister and score a leaden point about equality, most of them without even saying anything out loud.

They looked fabulous on television in their tights and coloured jackets, and that is important because television really matters to women, so much so that ITV has announced that it is to launch a new channel aimed right at them. ITVBe will focus on lifestyle and reality programming. Its flagship shows will be The Only Way Is Essex, a show about bickering and vajazzling, and US Real Housewives, a show about real housewives.

It will be a wholly advertising and sponsorship-funded channel which means the breaks in between aspirational programmes will be filled with commercials for Internet dating sites, perfumed sanitary towels and Cif. Its idents have not yet been revealed but I can imagine them featuring some high heels, kittens frolicking in a flowery meadow and special subliminal messaging visible only to men that says THIS ISN’T FOR YOU in screen-high, pink, glittery letters. 

According to Peter Fincham, the director of television at ITV, reality and non-scripted shows are “very popular with young women and housewives with kids”. So now they can spend their days in a mindless, St Tropez-scented ghetto watching slightly more shameless, fame-hungry versions of themselves on a loop. Men, meanwhile, have ITV2, which will remain home to less relatable things like comedy and drama.

ITVBe, like Bic’s pastel, easy-grip pens For Her and Cadbury’s low-cal Crispello women’s chocolate bar, is the innovation that nobody has been waiting for. Particularly pernicious is its targeting of young female viewers with a diet of programming and advertising that implies that the only things to aim for in life are more things and a rich husband.

It is not, though, the first gender-specific channel. UKTV’s Dave has a boy’s name and styles itself as “the home of witty banter”, showing endless reruns of James May’s Top Toys and Lizard Lick Towing. Later this year, the BBC will launch BBC Brit, a new channel aimed at men, with Top Gear as its flagship “fact-ent” show. It is not only women who must suffer horribly at the hands of commissioners’ crude stereotyping.

The drive behind these channels has nothing to do with tailor-made content for users and everything to do with revenue. Force a man and a woman to watch two different televisions in one house and that is double the advertising reach.

Except no one watches television in the old way any more. We are a nation of channel-surfers, iPlayers and on-demanders. The ways of watching are myriad, the choice of content vast. In a world of endless possibilities, ITV’s misguided rebranding exercise looks desperately narrow-minded.

I am sure that the women of the UK will do the right thing and vote with their remote, assuming they know how to work it, that is.

Last dance, please. Let the new ice queens shine

There are two prevailing opinions about the Winter Olympics in the UK. They are all a bit odd, and Great Britain is traditionally quite rubbish at them. With one notable, purple, exception.

Torvill and Dean’s full-marks triumph at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympic Games is still considered the high point of the nation’s winter sports achievements. And so this week the ice-skaters marked its anniversary by re-creating that golden night.

Their Bolero was, still is, a thing of great beauty but this was a very eccentric undertaking. The best sporting moments have a lightning quality: if one can capture that and release it 30 years later, does that not dull a little of the spark?

Similarly, the Eighties’ ski-jumper Eddie the Eagle remains a byword for the UK’s prowess, or lack of it, on snow. It is time to move on and put some fresh faces in the montages.

Thanks to Jenny Jones and Lizzy Yarnold, Great Britain has new winter heroines now.


Gone today, hair tomorrow

An international sporting career comes to a close and another door opens.

On Wednesday, one week after being dropped from the England cricket team, Kevin Pietersen revealed his next move. He has opened a children’s hair salon with his wife, the former pop star Jessica Taylor.

Bella & Beau in London’s Notting Hill is apparently a child’s coiffing dream, with chairs shaped like fire engines, pink pianos and motorbikes.

It is also a parent’s nightmare, with a cut-and-blow-dry for their precious ones coming in at £40. Even by celebrity’s extreme standards, this is bonkers. The parents presumably have to wait around in novelty, too-small chairs while their children’s wispy locks are tended to.

Meanwhile, the children miss out on the thrill of a trip to a real, grown-up salon. Most bizarrely, Kevin Pietersen – he of the peroxide “dead skunk” stripe and the cobalt Mohican – is in charge. Parents of Notting Hill, lock up your sons and daughters.

Relatively slick, Mr O

Veiled insult of the week goes to Barack Obama. At a press conference with France’s President François Hollande to mark a rare French state visit, the American President would not be drawn on whether relations between America and France were now plus chaud than those between America and the UK.

“I have two daughters, and they are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them,” Obama told Hollande.

“And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

How nice, how slippery, how patronising. Someone’s been watching House of Cards.