Fincham urges end to doom and gloom

ITV director delivers McTaggart lecture in Edinburgh

EDINBURGH -- ITV director of television Peter Fincham called for an end to the doom-mongering over British TV and delivered an upbeat opening to the Edinburgh International Television Festival with a rallying cry for good old-fashioned entertainment.

Delivering the annual McTaggart lecture at Edinburgh's McEwan Hall, Fincham said that controversies like last year's phone-in scandal have taken so much of the industry's energy that creativity and innovation are taking a back seat. He further warned TV regulators that they are creating an approach to the medium that leaves entertainment out of the equation.

"We've spent so much time in the past 12 months talking about deception, that I worry we haven't found time to talk about the other side of the coin: invention," Fincham told a standing-room only audience. "It's what those in the posh seats might call art and what the rest of us would broadly call entertainment."

In a year when the U.K.'s biggest broadcasters are awaiting the outcome of media regulator Ofcom's review of public service broadcasting, Fincham launched a savage broadside at the watchdog's oversight of entertainment, which he said was crushing creativity.

"What you'll find in this report (Ofcom's phase 2 report into public service broadcasting), is a version of television that is understood by regulators, consultants, strategists and media commentators and has a language all its own," he said.

"Here we have the deathless language of the committee, each word carefully weighed and balanced and rinsed of all life and passion, a definition of public service broadcasting that exists only in the minds of those whose job it is to write such definitions."

Fincham said that television producers need to be free to create exciting and adventurous programming, and warned regulators to step back from the process.

"Television needs regulators just as roads need traffic wardens, but you wouldn't ask your traffic warden what sort of car to buy, still less how to drive it," he said.