MEDIA: Granada’s satellite venture highlights Sky’s dominance

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 with BSkyB.

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

with BSkyB.

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

of programme-making.

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.

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