Simon Shaps at the RTS

Simon Shaps, Director of Television for ITV, spoke to the Royal Television Society on Thursday night. I wasn’t there, of course, but thanks to the transcript we can find out what he said.

Firstly, there’s a robust defence of television (viewing hours are up – though it’s not clear if this includes time watching DVDs – as are, apparently, advert impressions), and the obligatory knocking of the BBC vision of the creative future, “which appears to focus on virtually everything but making television.”

But the main thrust of his speech is about ITV’s approach. He wants to “win audiences and plaudits by being bold and adventurous,” to be a “channel that aims high, that does take risks, and is less predictable.”

There are a few lines that bring out the cynic in me, but the one that really sticks in my throat goes like this:

In Childrens we have launched a new channel which includes in its line-up more UK original content than all of our commercial competitors put together.

I’m sure somebody here will correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that the CITV channel currently includes no new commissions. That is, all the ‘UK original content’ is repeats.

But my central criticism is this – Shaps says nothing that producers don’t hear every week from commissioners. ‘We want more innovation,’ they say, ‘radical ideas,’ ‘we’re willing to take risks,’ ‘we want TV that people will talk about.’ Well… of course they do. But the plain fact of the matter is that, by definition, you can’t take risks without having a few failures. If you only take the sure-fire hits then, well, you’re not risking anything at all.

So, ultimately, I’m left scratching my head and wondering just what Shaps’ strategy really is. Because from where I’m sitting, it looks exactly the same as everyone else’s.

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