What’s ITV for?

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From the ITV web site

ITV is the biggest commercial television network in the UK, broadcasting the most talked about television and making a major contribution to the UK’s culture, economy and communities.

What is ITV for? This isn’t just an idle question. We know what the BBC’s for (sort of): it’s for public service brodcasting and higher quality populist fare – that sort of thing. That’s why we watch it. Channel 4’s there for a brave stab at public service broadcasting, US imports and daft rubbish. Five is there for, well, that’s actually a tricky question but US imports plus whatever else their Lucky 8 ball suggested that week, or what they could get away with making for crap-all budget.

But ITV’s trickier. Not only is it contemplating giving back its terrestrial licence to get out of public service broadcasting, no one really has an idea of what it’s for, apart from rubbish these days. It used simply to be an alternative to the BBC for the ‘common man’, designed to increase competition, improve standards and make programmes the Beeb wouldn’t because it was too snooty. But now the Beeb makes some very good programmes, not all of them snooty, and ITV makes some very bad programmes – is the television of the ‘common man’ simply crap TV or should it be something better?

Okay, standards are improving, with a number of goodish shows making it on to our screens of late (eg The Fixer and Lost in Austen). But we all know roughly what BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 are for. Do you honestly know what ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 are doing with their lives? Here’s the blurb:

ITV1: Britain’s most popular commercial channel
ITV2: An exciting mix of talent, celebrity gossip and factual shows
ITV3: Delve into the archives with classic drama from the ITV vaults
ITV4: Challenging drama, cult films and premium sports events

Are you feeling any wiser? Do these feel like well thought out focuses? Does it help to realise this is all lies anyway (eg Secret Diary of a Call Girl on ITV2, US imports like Life and BBC shows like Lovejoy on ITV3, old ITC shows like Space: 1999 and manly documentaries on ITV4).

So if ITV’s not there for public service broadcasting and doesn’t produce good TV, does it have a purpose? Or is it simply just another broadcaster these days – just like Five? And if it’s just like Five, are ultimately its ratings going to end up just like Five’s unless it can think of a proper place for itself in the world?

Over to you…