ITV – Friends Reunited and Six degrees of Stupidity

itv ITV may be the third channel on your TV, but in all their years of operation, they seem to have even less brain cells between their executives over their entire 60 years of broadcast. What’s even more crazy is that when viewers tell them where they’re going wrong, they just tell you why you’re wrong and carry on their own sweet way. Their problems are (at least) six-fold…

1. Friends Reunited

This was a great website when it was conceived in 1999 by Steve and Julie Pankhurst, and their friend Jason Porter, launching it on July 1st, 2000. It was a way to keep in touch with friends from school, and see if that girl you fancied had since got married or, on messaging her, still hated your guts. However, within a few short years, everyone had moved on. Social networking was coming at a pace, with Myspace as THE place to go, and with Facebook appearing on the horizon for the public in late 2006, but it was clear that Friends Reunited had reached saturation point for what it could do and no-one was interested in it anymore…

And so in 2005, that’s when ITV decided to fork out £120m (plus an extra maximum of £55m by 2009, depending on performance) for the website. Anyone with a brain could’ve seen what a dumb idea this was.

In Agust 2009, they sold it to DC Thomson for £25m. Did they think that other companies were going to pay money to use the name? No, that’s why, for example, the fantastic Doctors, on BBC1, has a similarly-named website that comes up on their drama, “Mates Reconnected”. I know this because I looked it up on ‘Webseek UK’ 😉

2. Love On A Saturday Night

With Blind Date having run for almost 20 years, they needed a replacement. Cue Davina McCall in the studio, Jonathan Wilkes out doing live broadcasts in the field (until a member of the public said “fuck” and they were subsequently pre-recorded), and contestants hiding their identity by wearing what looked like gimp masks (I wish I could find a clip of this).

itv-13. ITV1

For almost 46 years, ITV had been called ITV. But then, since they had ITV2, with ITV3 and ITV4 to follow, they assumed the average viewer was dumber than a mule, and on August 11th 2001, they changed its name to ITV1 – the name that NO-ONE in the general public ever called it.

4. ITV bringing in a DOG

What’s a DOG? It stands for digitally-originated graphic, or for those without a brain (like ITV’s bosses), digital onscreen graphic (You know it’s onscreen. You can see it. This is not the correct description, but some people don’t understand hyphenated words. Like ITV’s bosses). Basically, put the channel on. You know you’re watching ITV, yet like Channel 5, it’s run by morons who think you need to be told 24/7 (except when they have advertisers who don’t like this and want to hawk their cheesy wares before your eyes), and in the top-left corner of the screen, it says “itv” (previously “itv1”). As if Corrie is broadcast by any other broadcaster.

I emailed ITV, stating that they’ve managed perfectly well for 57 years without viewers getting in any way confused about what channel they’re watching (and even if you’d suffered brain damage since putting the TV on, that evening, pressing ‘i’ on the remote tells you). They told me: “Many HD channels and digital channels already use Digital On Screen Graphics* as a way of ensuring viewers always know what channel they are watching. We have introduced this for ITV, in line with the rest of our channels, which already carry them.”

(*what did I tell you??)

5. Scrapping GMTV

Competing against BBC’s Breakfast programmes was always a difficult task, but for the best part of ten years, TV-am made way on January 1st 1993, which ran until September 2010. Alas, there’s always someone new who wants to take over and feel important about themselves for five minutes. This included scrapping GMTV and trying to come up with something even half as good.

In 2010, they came up with Daybreak, poaching BBC1’s golden couple of Christine Bleakley and Adrian Chiles from The One Show, presuming their lightweight format of banality would work over three hours the same way it worked over 30 minutes on BBC1. Everyone hated it. In 2014, it was replaced with Good Morning Britain, which like Daybreak also used an old spin-off name from the TV-am days. This is also dying on its arse compared to the BBC.

itv-the-hobbit6. The Hobbit

So, what’s Peter Jackson’s nine-hour opus got to do with ITV? Because, so far, they’ve shown the first of three films, An Unexpected Journey. One of the most intricately made films of the past decade, the New Zealand director took the time to prepare an exquisite IMAX 2.35:1 presentation in 48 frames-per-second transfer for the cinema, having shot the films with Redcode RAW (5K) cameras.

ITV cropped it to 16:9, yet their Toyoya Auris sponsor trails were in a 2.35:1 ratio!

I emailed their duty office and asked them for to pass on the fact that the ITV head of film purchasing is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

Soon after, Derek, their Technical Manager at ITV Viewer Services replied (and I didn’t get any further sense out of them):

“Our Head of Transmission has confirmed that we currently present all our feature films in 16:9 so The Hobbit was broadcast as intended. I appreciate that this was not in the aspect ratio you would have preferred. However, as previously advised, our Technical Management and Programme Strategy teams will discuss your views at feedback meetings in the months ahead. If there are any changes to the current policy I will be in touch again.”

Occasionally, 2.35:1 films sneak through in the correct ratio, such as The Dark Knight (but not Batman Begins), The Hangover, Happy Feet and a presumably recently-acquired print of Lethal Weapon 4, but these all seem to be mistakes. There’s also times when the similarly-stupid Channel 5 somehow broadcast a film correctly, eg. 21 Jump Street, but when ITV get the rights to show it, they have a version that’s cropped to 16:9.

So – gimp masks, rebranding that no-one cares for, logos no-one wants, and movie presentation that takes TV back to the stone age. What other stupidies are they responsible for? Post below. I’ve probably missed out loads.