Union calls for Grade to depart ITV

Bectu has called for ITV’s Chief Executive, Michael Grade, to step down after ITV announced job cuts, budget cuts and studio closures due to the worsening economic climate.

ITV’s Studios in Manchester

Michael Grade is facing calls to step down following yesterday’s announcements of record losses for ITV and job cuts, budget cuts and the closure of studio’s in Leeds. The broadcaster was widely expected to cut jobs and announce it would close its Leeds studios, where Emmerdale and Countdown are filmed, but when the news came it was still met by anger.

The job losses announced were also worse than expected. With all of this bad news it’s hardly surprising that Bectu’s general secretary, Gerry Morrissey, is leading calls for Michael Grade to step down. Morrissey revealed that the broadcasting union would most likely lobby Ofcom, the media regulator, and the government to step in and remove Grade on the grounds of “significant mismanagement”

“He is trying to put the gloss on the situation, blaming the economic downturn, but I don’t buy it. When Granada first merged, there were 8,000 staff members. Now there are 4,000. Last year was a bad year, but Michael Grade cannot blame that alone for ITV’s decline.” Gerry Morrissey speaking Broadcast

When Grade returned to ITV just a few years ago there were high hopes that he would turn around the fortunes of the faltering broadcaster but that has far from happened. Instead things have actually got worse with the axe falling on a swathe of flop drama’s most of which were launched last year with much fanfare. ITV boasted about its revamped schedules in January 2008 with a host of new drama’s to lit up the schedules and the return of The News At Ten. But ITV were left embarrassed when there hyped drama’s, such as Echo Beach, flopped and The News At Ten failed to attract big audiences.

Things continued to get worse for ITV across the year with more drama’s launching to big hopes but ending with low ratings. ITV had huge hopes for Britannia High, hoping to cash in on the High School Musical craze, and were hoping for big merchandise sales associated with the series and even touring the “stars” of the show. Britannia High was panned by critics and disliked by viewers. Other flops across the year included Harley Street, The Whistleblowers, The Palace, Rock Rivals and The Royal Today.

Now due to declining ratings and budget cuts it isn’t just new drama’s that are being dropped by the network but also long running ones with Heartbeat, The Royal and Wire in the Blood all axed. With the closure of studio’s in Leeds it’s hard to see how Heartbeat and The Royal could be revived in two years time for new production. Other drama’s such as Taggart, which has been struggling in the ratings, could also face the axe.

“I think what today’s results show is that Michael Grade at the helm of ITV does not work and it’s been going on for too long. Someone managing a decline of a company seriously in the red should not be taking home a pay check of nearly £1m. We are not ruling out [stike action], but the staff at ITV are completely demoralised. The last thing we want to do is get them out and on strike.” Gerry Morrissey speaking to Broadcast

Grade is likely to face a tough few weeks with shareholders also likely to be unhappy with his performance and they may to call for a change in management. One thing that is clear there’s a lot of anger within ITV and outside of ITV about yesterday’s announcements and the calls for Grade to go may not quickly disappear.

ITV’s HQ in London on the Southbank of the river Thames.
Share Button