STV Still 'Hopeful' over Taggart

The chief executive of STV says he is hopeful that ITV will commission future episodes of the crime drama, Taggart, which STV has been making for over 25 years.

Said Rob Woodward: “We are still in dialogue with ITV. It's ITV network's decision but we still have a healthy and positive dialogue over Taggart. We remain very hopeful [that new episodes will be commissioned]. It's a brand which works extremely well for ITV and we're extremely hopeful.”

His comments come on the day his company announced a drop in its turnover and operating profit during the first six months of this year compared to this time last year (here) and amid concerns that Taggart is no longer wanted by ITV.

Whether Taggart has or has not passed its shelf life, the concern about its future is partly tied up with what are widely perceived to be strained relations between ITV and STV, with the former said to be seeking £22 million from the Glasgow-based broadcaster, as its contribution towards the making of network programmes. STV has not publicised its calculation.

Woodward told “We have an ongoing dialogue with ITV with the focus to find a resolution to the current disagreement. Beyond that, I cannot really say very much.”

Earlier this month, ITV executive chair, Michael Grade, said he was “mystified” by STV increasingly choosing to opt out of the ITV network, including with more locally-made programmes. The most recent edition of trade paper, Broadcast, reported that the locally-made The Scots Who Fought Franco attracted a six per cent share of its potential audience (it was broadcast in two parts – last Thursday and the Thursday before) when the alternative from the network, The Bill, would most likely have attracted a 16.7 per cent share.

STV's argument is that Scottish audiences want Scottish content and that increased commitment to locally-made programmes is good for the TV industry in Scotland. Woodward said: “[When I got involved as chief executive just over two years ago] STV had basically decided to take all of the ITV schedule and was being criticised for being too English and too London-centric, and what we're doing is addressing that. If you look at what STV used to look like, 20 years or so, it had a much more distinctive look and feel. And what we're doing is bringing that back onto the screen.”

He added: “The concept of STV and UTV being co-signatories, or co-commissioners, as part of a wider ITV network – we are in name, but not in practice [since the ITV network is now mostly owned by ITV plc]. We need to look to a more commercial model where we pay a fair-going rate for the best of ITV1 content and we are free to inject our content from whatever source into that schedule.”

Comment: As a viewer of 50 years' standing I, like many others, have been appalled at STV's decision not to show most of the network's drama.

Last Sunday was a classic example. While the rest of the UK could watch new drama with Timothy Spall, STV viewers were treated to some old tosh – a film from 1990 with Gene Hackman.

As a journalist with The Herald for three decades, I reported on STV (one of the best stories was how they were doing an expose of low pay – and using student researchers without paying them to get the facts) and sadly worked for SMG, the then owners of STV. So I know what they are about. They don't give a fig for viewers.

Today's comments by the latest in a sorry line of chief executives, Rob Woodward, about returning STV used to look like 20 years or so are risible.

I have a long memory and remember just how bad STV was then – in the dark ages. Not to say it is not just as bad just now. Only last week their website was telling us: Dominic Keane has went on trial.”

Get real and get this sorted out pronto, Mr Woodward. I shall be taking my complaint to the regulator.

Cameron Simpson (former Herald journalist turned media commentator)

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