ITV Productions Kids to close

Media Guardian has the story: the children’s production arm of ITV, with offices in Leeds, Manchester and London, is to close. This was the largest children’s production unit outside the BBC; 19 people vs. 600, or whatever it is.

The Leeds department is where we made The Big Bang for nine years; I loved the gang there, and sorely miss the atmosphere and support generated by Production Manager Liz and Accountant Lance. They’re a terrific team, making excellent shows, but currently that doesn’t seem to be enough.

It’s widely assumed that ITV wants out of children’s entirely: it’s a public service requirement imposed on them by OFCOM, and the costs to ITV are fairly large. They commission £27m-worth of programmes, but the lost advertising revenue has been estimated at £10m or more. Now, ITV1 spends something like £800m on programmes/year, so this isn’t huge – but bear in mind that the TV industry runs on typical margins of 15%. £40m is suddenly a big chunk of change that could ‘better’ be spent countering Sky, and indeed the BBC.

If OFCOM rolls over and further reduces the current 8 hours/week children’s requirement for ITV1, CITV could disappear entirely.

I’d worry about the impact such a move might have on the BBC. The public service requirement on ITV was partly a hold-over from the days when a broadcast license was ‘a license to print money,’ but it’s also there to give the BBC some competition. CBBC is a considerable asset in the run-up to charter renewal, but it’s still expensive, and it’s uneven – notably, they’ve not been interested in factual programming for some years. Could it find itself squeezed?

Even if CBBC continues in its current form, the loss of CITV would take £27m out of the industry, which would effectively decimate children’s production outside the BBC. It’s already spectacularly hard for independent production companies to make any money out of children’s – there’s not enough commissioning to go around – and offhand I can only think of HIT Entertainment who’d survive a total closure of CITV. Perhaps The Foundation too, and a couple of the larger preschool specialists.

Yikes. Suddenly I’m frustrated that SciCast has been delayed until next year – exploring alternative delivery models is partly what that project is about. I wanted to use it to provide data and background for other, subsequent, projects. It looks like that ‘subsequent’ timescale might have to be sooner than I’d thought.


  1. Patrick Titley

    20 June, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    Sad but inevitable. I’m pretty sure the only reason ITV gave the go-ahead to set up the CITV channel was to get rid of children’s on terrestrial completely.

  2. Hell’s bells.
    I’m sorry, the thought of this is making me too angry to write coherently. There’s enough *shite* around as it is, to leave children’s broadcasting completely in the hands of commercial stations – that is to say, in a situation where it’s only done if it’s going to raise advertising revenue. Which means you’ll get crap cartoons interspersed every two minutes with toy adverts. Oh look, that’s what happens in the rest of the world.
    Gad, I miss the BBC.

  3. sorry, I meant to add that the thought of all children’s TV being on non-terrestrial sucks. I mean, you’re paying twice – through the cable/sat fee and the adverts. And I don’t want another 200 channels of shit on the TV to choose from (chose from, choose from. . .) for 1 decent programme.

  4. Well, the BBC’s still there, and their children’s output isn’t going away in a hurry. I worry about it in the long term, but nothing’s changed directly for them today.
    The ITV situation, however, may indeed be just as bleak as I suspected when I wrote this — there’s certainly more going on than has been made public so far.
    On the other hand, the news has also prompted some interesting, even exciting, discussion. I’m not sure there’s hope for children’s TV, but this whole episode might force us to do something a bit daring. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I for one am not giving up quite yet.

  5. More than 80 jobs are at risk at ITV’s factual programme department at ITV Yorkshire Leeds which produces television programmes for the ITV network and other Broadcasters. This news follows recent other closure announcements in ITV.
    Jim Allen made the announcement today at YTV where the department is based. This follows other recent anouncements of closures in ITV factual where Allen’s managment has been in question for some time.
    It was recently said that this decision reflects the competitive production environment and is not a reflection on the quality of the unit’s work over many years.
    ITV productions – which has a bases in London, Manchester and Norwich has found recent market trading conditions difficult. With out strong editorial leadership ITV has found it very difficult to win commissions with in its prodiction arm.
    A spokesman for the broadcasting union Bectu recently said: “This is a sad day for the people at Granada whose jobs are on the line and it’s a sad day for TV production. “The cutbacks at Granada’s Factual department seem to be symptomatic of a dumbing down and waning of commitment to factual programmes in the industry.
    Untill recently ITV Productions has said it made factual programmes from five sites in the UK, which had led to an issue of overcapacity, further cuts are believed to be likly.
    “As a commercial company we have to make commercial decisions,” the ITV spokesman has said.
    The clousure is believed to make senior managments positions untenable as there are not now enough programme departments left for a senior tier of managment to be sustained so managment cuts are thought likley. Questions have been raised about the actions of ITV senior managment including Jim Allen many of whos programmes have not been screened by ITV, his position is thought to be quesionable.

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