Letter: ITV successes in quality drama

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Davies' Viewpoint ('Crass mishandling of franchises and cynical flight from quality', 27 May) on TV drama is unbalanced. He complains about a headlong flight from quality; the viewing public doesn't seem to agree. ITV investment in quality drama has enabled the ITV network to claim 27 of the top 30 places in the ratings list of television dramas for the past two years. Last year over 115 ITV drama programmes achieved an audience of more than 10 million viewers - two-and-a-half times the number achieved by BBC dramas. And the ITV audience is now made up of a greater proportion of ABC1 viewers than previously - not much sign of going downmarket here.

And what does the BBC think of ITV drama? I quote the authors of the BBC Programme Strategy Review, Alan Yentob and Liz Forgan: 'ITV drama has not gone downmarket . . . it has succeeded in catching audiences with expensive, quality drama. BBC productions have failed to capture the big audiences where ITV have succeeded.'

If Mr Davies doesn't trust the critical instincts of viewers and the BBC, perhaps he might take notice that ITV drama productions and their leading performers, Robbie Coltrane and Helen Mirren, have won awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Royal Television Society and the Broadcasting Guild, all of which, I would suggest, know more than a little about quality.

May I make one final point on commissioning. Because the Network Centre team has been successful in attracting large audiences for such diverse productions as Cracker, Peak Practice, Inspector Morse, the Catherine Cookson dramas and Sharpe, ITV provides more peak-time drama than any other channel. Success in the drama field provides more opportunities for scriptwriters like Mr Davies, not less.

Yours sincerely,


Controller, Network Drama and Entertainment

Independent Television


London, WC1