Our favourite ITV shows ‘under threat’… What’s your opinion?

michael-grade

As you’ve probably heard, the Chief of ITV, Michael Grade, announced yesterday that more than 600 jobs would be cut across the ITV owned network and group of companies. He also announced that following a 41% drop in revenue from advertising, the company had to make radical cutbacks.

Mr Grade was quoted in The Sun yesterday as saying, “Current conditions in the advertising market are the most challenging I have experienced in over 30 years in UK broadcasting.

“This is reflected both in our financial results for 2008 and the tough actions we are announcing today”.

Apparently a large part of ITV’s planned savings will be via cuts to its £1 billion programming budget, which will be reduced by £65 million during this year…

Grade added that, “Costs will be cut through efficiencies and on network programme and regional news savings.”

friends reunited

He also revealed that ITV is looking for potential buyers for its Friends Reunited social networking site as well as its online business directory Scoot. It’s also expected that ITV’s Local broadband service – which provides local news content – will be scrapped.

So how is all this going to affect our favourite shows as well as the economy in general?

The fact is, the implications of the current cutbacks – as well as any future ones, if the economic situation continues to deteriorate – could have an enormous impact on not only our top ITV shows but employment and revenue in general, both in the UK and across the world.

Just imagine how many people and companies – other than actors and film crews – rely on ITV and its offshoot companies? Every business imaginable actually could well be adversely affected; from catering companies to cleaners, joiners to drivers, clothing manufacturers to office supplies, airlines to builders… the knock-on effects could be disastrous for millions of people.

So let’s take a look at how some of the biggest ITV shows are likely to be immediately affected…

x factor 2008

X Factor: Simon Cowell’s contract with ITV for the sole rights to broadcast the X Factor may not be renewed, so we may well see the show disappearing from ITV, although I would imagine that any number of other channels or networks would happily snap up the rights to air the show.

Apparently, Simon Cowell currently has a ‘golden handcuffs’ deal with ITV that’s worth £20 million but as that’s due to expire in December of this year, and it looks like there’s a good chance it won’t be renewed.

Ant and Dec: Like Simon, telly’s favourite duo also have a deal with ITV that’s worth £20 million and they’ve already let it be known that when their current contract expires, they may not renew it; whether by choice or as part of ITV’s cutbacks wasn’t made clear in reports about the pair.

Emmerdale LogoCoronation Street logoCoronation Street and Emmerdale: Michael Grade announced that as part of the cutbacks, the production budgets of each of the shows would be cut by 5% and part of that reduction in expenditure will be made from the actors salaries. The filming of Corrie was in fact halted yesterday so that the cast and crew could watch Michael Grade via a live video link as he explained how the cutbacks will affect them.

It seems that part of the cutbacks may see the closure of ITV’s studios in Leeds, although apparently the set of Emmerdale will be retained, so I assume the company would either rent the space from any prospective buyer of the studios or sell off the rest of the buildings and land.

ITV insiders told the BBC that they expect the Corrie set will be moved to “a more modern development.” The source also added “It’s commonly felt that the head office and Coronation Street set is no longer fit for modern television.”

Click here to see what Emmerdale actor Chris Chittell – who plays Eric Pollard – had to say about the cuts.

heartbeat

ITV Drama: Many of the nation’s best loved drama series will be affected and it’s been revealed that Wild At Heart will probably be ‘shelved’ since filming on location in South Africa is considered “too expensive”. However, it seems the cast and crew of the drama has not yet been informed whether filming will start on the new series this summer or not.

It’s already been confirmed however that ITV is definitely shelving Yorkshire-based dramas Heartbeat and The Royal.

Additionally, as we reported yesterday, This Morning is to be mothballed throughout the summer as part of the cost cutting exercise.

Behind the scenes: Last year, over 1,000 jobs were lost throughout ITV with the majority affecting admin staff, however, ITV employees now have the added worry that it’s been revealed the company is “struggling” with its £2.6 billion pension fund and “debt burden”.

Peter Fincham

It’s expected that around 150 of the latest job losses will affect ITV employees in Leeds and “several hundred” jobs are expected to be axed at ITV’s London offices.

The chiefs of both ITV3 and ITV4 are reportedly going to be made redundant, although TV executive Peter Fincham – pictured on the left – is expected to take on the role of overseeing all the channels as well as programme production, so his salary will without doubt increase significantly.

Mind you, he’ll have a big remit as it was also announced last week that ITV had “drawn up a plan” to merge with Channel 4 and Channel Five in a bid to spread the costs between the three TV networks.

Union’s anger: Gerry Morrissey, head of union BECTU – which is an acronym for Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union – says there could well be a number of strikes in the pipeline to protest against the cutbacks. He said that ITV staff are presently, “The most demoralised workforce in British television”.

He also refuted ITV’s claims that the cutbacks were as a result of the economic downturn.

“This is because of the mismanagement of ITV and has been going on for longer than the current credit crunch” he told the BBC.

He added that he believed the company’s management had been, and still were, “More interested in looking after shareholders and senior management rather than staff and viewers”.

Another BECTU official, Sharon Elliott, added, “This is a slap in the face for a loyal and skilled workforce, and seriously undermines ITV’s credibility in respect of its so-called commitment to the regions”

The union has also urged the government to intervene to “stop further damage” to ITV programmes and the affects on staff.

So what do you think? Have ITV mismanaged their budgets and given their top executives too much in the way of pay and perks, or is this current situation really what Michael Grade says it is – a reflection of how almost every business in the UK is being affected by the ‘credit crunch’?

And should the government become involved – as they did with Northern Rock for example – to ‘shore up’ the company?

Do you think we’re going to start seeing a drop in the quality of our top ITV shows, and would you support actors and other ITV staff if they went on strike, even if that meant the suspension of our favourite soaps and dramas?

Let us know your opinion!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.