There’s been a lot of hoo-ha in the meejia over the continuing decline of ITV. Britain’s third channel has recently shelved family favourites such as Heartbeat and The Royal, there are rumblings that local news will eventually disappear from our screens and many of the lavish dramas the channel is justly celebrated for have either already been canned or cancelled before a shot’s been filmed. Indeed, if advertising revenue continues to plummet, there’s a real worry that ITV could cease to exist entirely.
If this happened, we’d lose quite a lot of very popular and, in some cases, important television: Coronation Street, The Bill, Emmerdale, The X Factor, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Taggart, A Touch Of Frost, Harry Hill’s TV Burp, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!, You’ve Been Framed, Midsomer Murders … love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying ITV still pumps out some big ass shows. The loss of Coronation Street, for example, would be a hammer-blow to the very heart of what makes British television unique, and a personal tragedy for millions of viewers.
But would this really happen? If ITV dies the death many pundits fear, would a show as culturally significant as Coronation Street be allowed to go down in flames with the rest of the channel? Surely another broadcaster would come to its rescue? I don’t believe for one minute that a show that regularly brings in an audience of 14 million viewers would be consigned to the history books because the place it’s called home for the last forty nine years disappears from under it. If the worst happened, I strongly suspect Coronation Street would be snapped up by the likes of Sky One. Hell, I could even see it on the BBC.
If something as identifiably ‘ITV’ as Coronation Street appearing elsewhere seems hard to contemplate, just remember it wouldn’t be the first time. ITV originally broadcast Men Behaving Badly, yet it was the BBC that turned it into the comedy juggernaut it later became. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet had two series on channel three before being successfully revived, once again, by the good old BBC. And let’s not forget both Channel 5 and Sky have gone resurrection crazy with rubbish such as Gladiators, Minder, Going For Gold and Superstars shitting blood all over the schedules.
If we were to lose ITV, I suspect, sadly, that we’d never see the likes of Frost, Midsomer Murders or Taggart again, but I reckon the loss of the channel wouldn’t necessarily mean the loss of Coronation Street, The Bill, Emmerdale or Millionaire. I’d be willing to bet the truly inspired TV Burp would resurface on Channel 4, and you can bet your arse the monumentally greedy Simon Cowell would be banging on Rupert Murdoch’s door to make sure both The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent didn’t go the way of the dodo. Similarly, I’m A Celebrity would be so at home on Sky, I’m surprised it’s not there already.
Losing ITV would be, for many of us, like losing a beloved family member. However, like the old family photos you come across every now and again, the bits and bobs of theirs you find in a drawer, there would be enough mementos of it about to keep its memory alive.
Indeed, the death of ITV could be the best thing that ever happened to the channel. We’d still have all its best bits spread about the schedules, and none of the shit that has brought the channel’s reputation to its knees. That, bizarrely, could be ITV’s saving grace.