A top ITV boss today accused the network of making mistakes over its treatment of Granada’s HQ in Manchester.
“It is clear that ITV has lost its way,” said Andy Harries, controller of drama, comedy and film for ITV Productions.
He has overseen the making of numerous award-winning Manchester shows, such as Cold Feet and The Royle Family, currently filming a one-off special for BBC1.
His recent projects include See No Evil, a factual drama about the moors murders, as well as other Manchester filmed dramas like Vincent, Donovan and the imminent return of both Robbie Coltrane in Cracker and Helen Mirren in a farewell Prime Suspect.
Now Andy has finally said in public what many have been saying in private for some time. In the wake of the departure of ITV boss Charles Allen, Mr Harries claimed some bad decisions have been made over the last few years.
That includes dropping historic ITV company names like Granada after the merger with Carlton. “That was short-sighted,” he said in an interview with Media Guardian.
“Fifty years of quality – a tradition. I argued against renaming it ITV Productions – it’s very disappointing to me that Cracker is the first not to have a Granada logo on it.”
He also spoke about the treatment of Granada in Manchester. “A lot of mistakes were made, by a whole series of poor middle managers, over the last 10 to 15 years, who did not understand the potential of the place.
“They’ve been caught napping, just as there is a big shift towards regional production. In the heart of Granada’s old building are independents, such as Red, filling the programme vacuum, and they make lots of money. It is mad isn’t it? Absolutely mad. ITV is like Marks & Spencer, a victim of so many bad decisions over the years.”
He added: “It seems to me they should be looking at grouping Manchester and Yorkshire into a dynamic, low-cost, northern-based drama company, a Coronation Street-Emmerdale axis.”
Asked why ITV was losing viewers, Mr Harries replied that former boss Mr Allen was “well intentioned – but the difficulty was the business became more important than the channels”.
He said upmarket viewers had stopped watching ITV because there was too much “clutter” on screen in terms of promotions for other programmes and services. “ITV is so unfashionable – it looks like bargain basement.”
His own recent successes have included Life Begins, Northern Lights and The Street. But the latter was made for BBC1, while new drama Longford, starring Jim Broadbent (right), was turned down by ITV and is being screened this autumn on Channel 4.
He maintained that ITV Network Centre in London had lacked direction when picking scripts to be made into TV dramas. “Every broadcaster makes mistakes. But in the past five years ITV’s compounded mistakes have added up. Drama has not delivered as well as it should or could do.
“I don’t think our drama is big enough, or must-watch enough. We’ve had too many series, and we have lacked conviction. There’s been a deep complacency, combined with arrogance. ITV has been caught napping big time.”
Is Andy right? What do you think?