We can’t let the week pass without marking that Granada, with some help
from LWT’s archives, launched its new satellite channels in partnership
If the Life and Loves of Ken Barlow and repeats of three thousand
episodes of Coronation Street filmed since 1976 represents your idea of
TV heaven, then its flagship called Granada Plus will not disappoint.
But the sight of Britain’s first major ITV player also knuckling down to
the challenge of making 100 hours a week of original programmes, carving
itself lifestyle and talk TV niches for a multi-channel future, is one
to savour. Scores of advertisers have been sweet talked into support.
There are hundreds of slots begging for inspiration from creative PR
But it is hard to sustain more than a faint cheer for the venture: at an
initial cost of around pounds 10 million this is hardly pioneering
broadcasting, as far as content goes. What enthusiasm I feel is reserved
for the way Granada has pulled together a keen team of professionals to
execute the task.
At GSB’s Manchester studios last week I was struck by the way it has
also trained more than 60 graduates as programme makers and technicians.
On sal-aries of pounds 9,000 a year and 12-month contracts, these are
poorly paid jobs but stop short of exploitation. Granada historically
acted as the university of commercial broadcasting, teaching skills to
the likes of John Birt: if it succeeds now in producing graduates who
can make what passes for quality factual programming on shoe-string
budgets then the effects will transform the economics of certain genres
But the launch serves as an uncomfortable reminder that it has taken
seven years for a top flight British broadcaster to grab opportunities,
and play both ends of the TV market. It has been a huge irony that so
many good ideas are wasted, expensive series cut short after only a few
episodes on both the BBC and ITV, because terrestrial TV is so cramped,
while satellite and cable, with all the airtime in the world, is awash
with imports and inferior products.
That seven year gap is critical: BSkyB is now so dominant that Granada
has had to concede an equity stake of 40 per cent to it. And the ITV
broadcaster has had to adapt its programming ambitions accordingly.
Granada, of course, was part of the doomed British Satellite
Broadcasting, annihilated four years ago, and has pragmatically decided
to remain a minority shareholder in BSkyB.
But this alliance, with Sky’s Osterley broadcasting centre handling
transmission, is one more example of the way no one has been able, yet,
to set up as a proper alternative. Whether the BBC’s new alliance with
Flextech will succeed in going it alone looks questionable. Still, at
least Granada has lumbered into action.