Grade: ITV could ditch public service status
Broadcaster's shares in freefall for the past 12 monthsLONDON -- ITV boss Michael Grade said Wednesday that the broadcaster's board will decide "in the next few months" whether it will continue as a highly regulated public service license holder or ditch the perks of its PSB status and take its chances in the marketplace.
Responding to media watchdog Ofcom's review into public service broadcasting, Grade said that the choice is stark, but that ITV could not afford to wait.
Under the terms of ITV's current license, it enjoys a basket of privileges including guaranteed DTT and HD spectrum and prime position as the third channel on the electronic program guide. In exchange, it must offer a regulated program mix and a commitment to local and international news provision.
"Under the nonlicensed option, there would be no deal, no benefit, and no guarantees," Grade told a meeting of the Royal Television Society, adding later "Of course, without a PSB license there could be no guarantee of any particular type or level of program provision."
ITV shares have been in freefall for the past 12 months, and it is calling on broadcasters to scale back its regulatory burden and 25 million pounds ($43 million)-a-year regional news spend. Ofcom will report on its recommendations in the New Year.
"ITV must be treated like a business operating in a highly competitive market," Grade said. "Not as an arm of social and industrial policy."