ITV course with BSkyB stake unchanged


LONDON -- ITV director of programs Simon Shaps said Friday that programming decisions at the network would be unaffected by BSkyB's acquisition of a 17.9% stake in the commercial broadcaster.

"There is no change to the way we are working," he told reporters at ITV1's winter/spring season launch. "My job is incredibly clearly defined -- to find the best programs for the network, and there is no change to the way we are operating," he said.

His comments came after Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan called on regulators to ensure that Sky's stake in ITV did not influence the broadcaster's strategy on acquisitions and rights ownership.

Shaps declined to comment on the impact of Sky's sudden swoop but said that the executive team he has assembled since taking over as director was "fully focused" on delivering a strong ITV schedule.

"They haven't allowed themselves to be distracted by speculation and are very focused. It's a testament to their commitment that they haven't allowed the speculation [about ITV's ownership] to change that."

BSkyB's acquisition of ITV's shares [THR 11/17] is thought to have derailed the merger talks that the broadcaster was carrying out with cable platform NTL. ITV rejected NTL's merger last week [THR 11/22].

Shaps used the program launch to reveal that he will not be re-commissioning "Love Island," the celebrity beachside reality show that had faltered in the ratings.

Upcoming highlights will include psychological drama "Fallen Angel," starring Emilia Fox as a religious sociopath and Charles Dance as the priest who becomes embroiled in her murderous plans. Action drama "Primeval" sees Douglas Henshall head a team of crack scientists who are recruited to investigate sightings of long extinct creatures that appear to be arriving on earth through openings in the fabric of time.

Factual entertainment is headed by a new business format "Fortune" that sees entrepreneurs contribute their own cash to set up a 1 million pound ($1.9 million) jackpot for the right deserving cause.
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