In Full: Allen's MacTaggart speech
For a while, I toyed with idea of delaying the announcement of my departure from ITV until the very start of this speech. Ok, that would have caused a dramatic Big Brother eviction moment. But the rest of this talk would have been drowned out by the scraping of chairs as the journalists among you rushed to file the story. The same story you've all been filing for the last 15 years - but this time in the past rather than the future tense. And I guess the rest of the room would have piled off down the pub: if he doesn't run anything then what's the point of listening to him? I'd have been left alone with the half dozen people currently sitting in this historic hall who want to be my successor. All hoping to glean some insight into running that wonderful, yet infuriating, problem child, ITV.
Truth is Guys - and Gal - don't worry about it. Running ITV is a doddle. Not because the challenges aren't real or substantial. But because there is so much free advice on tap. Every morning when I open the papers someone who used to run a bit of ITV, wished they still did, or hopes one day they might, sets the ITV world to rights. No need to fork out the millions the BBC spends each year on consultants - £1 at Fourboys gets you pretty much all the ITV strategy you could ever need.
The fact that it is all totally contradictory and all involves someone other than the current incumbent running the shop is by the by. It's the thought that counts...as I'm sure you'll appreciate when it's your turn. Of course by tradition, the MacTaggart is known as the longest job application in the industry. But, even if there was a vacancy, I'm honestly not sure I'd want any of the other big jobs in UK TV. The BBC - how on earth do you balance public service with commerciality, regulation with independence, Dick with Dom, and still nail the next licence fee? Finding the answer to the conundrum that is the BBC is like cracking the Da Vinci Code. But with Michael Grade as Tom Hanks and Mark Thompson as that frightening Albino monk.
What about running Sky? Well there's another holy bloodline I was born outside of - so I guess that counts me out there. And, as for Channel 4, I just couldn't cope with all those dress down Fridays. Or Thursdays. Or Wednesdays. In an environment of such ruthlessly enforced casualness, I'd be given a walkie talkie and told to report to security. So: no job application from me, no gratuitous point scoring and certainly no regrets.
Some years ago a young man from the west of Scotland entered the television industry. He'd started his career north of the border and outside television. Although he was to spend the remainder of his working life in TV, he retained that outsider's sensibility. Indeed, this became his advantage: He took on the status quo, the accepted wisdom, and sought to bring to bear a different perspective, however challenging that might be. That man of course was James MacTaggart, in whose memory this prestigious lecture series was established some 31 years ago. There are some superficial similarities between myself and James MacTaggart. Both proud Scots; both started outside TV; both spent more of our working lives in television than anywhere else. But to many it will be the differences that are more striking: MacTaggart a superb programme-maker who helped shape television drama. Me, I am afraid, the archetypal TV "suit".
Indeed, perhaps I shouldn't be here at all. When Gus MacDonald first came up with the idea of an Edinburgh Television Festival, he went around the BBC and ITV "suits" of the day to raise funds. They agreed to pay for it on condition that they didn't have to attend, "because it would be too radical and they would probably come in for attack." Well, Dawn Airey has encouraged me to get an "attack" in early, but that is not really my style. But in terms of being "radical" I hope that I will not disappoint.
Way back in 1989, James Murdoch's dad Rupert told a MacTaggart audience how the launch of satellite would shake up the networks that had dominated the previous era. He was right. In less than 20 years, Sky has built from nothing to around 8 million homes. An amazing achievement. However, in half that time, DTT has reached the same milestone. Hats off to Freeview. But hold on: in half that time again, broadband has overtaken every other digital platform to reach 10 million UK homes. We've catapulted from an era of networks to what Ofcom recently called the "networked generation". Be in no doubt: we are in the middle of seismic - and accelerating - changes. These days a year is a very long time in media - even a month. (I can tell you in commercial TV, July felt like an eternity.) Yet at the same time, thinking about UK television can appear pickled in aspic as it was a decade, two decades, even 30 years ago.
So tonight - perhaps curiously for a self-confessed suit - I want to make a plea for a renewed radicalism. Not in production nor in programme-making, nor even in the zeal with which we all need to embrace new technology - I'll leave that to you the experts. But in one or two areas where I can claim some experience. Because what I've learned over the years - in television and beyond - is that you can't meet the big challenges by burying your head in the sand or carrying on as you always have. And I'll touch on some of that personal experience.
I'll then address how the challenges facing ITV over the last 15 years - and into the next - demand radical thinking. But then I want to set out what I believe is the big question in British broadcasting - a billion pound question. How can we continue to enjoy the breadth and range and quality of British TV that we all grew up with, the programmes that moved us, the dramas that changed us, the shows that just made our lives a bit more of a laugh?
It's a question that again will not be resolved by half-measures or fine-tuning. And I'll set out parts of a solution in two key areas. The production sector. And the UK broadcasting market. Three decades in business, 15 years of ITV, the £1bn question. That's a lot to cover. But hey! The doors are locked and we've got all night...
And so - briefly - my own personal journey. My working life began with the luvvies of the British steel industry. As I was telling Lakshmi Mittal the other day at his £75m Kensington home, I soon realised that the steel industry was no place for a young man to make his fortune. Call it an accountant's instinct. So, before TV, I moved into contract catering and hotels. Some people thought it was a strange combination - Turkey Twizzlers and beds for the night. For me, it was the perfect business model. After a Little Chef Special, you'd need a good lie down.
But some of my most powerful business lessons have come from outside my official working life.I was fortunate enough to chair the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the success of which I am deeply proud. That led to my involvement as vice chair in the London Olympics bid, working with Tessa Jowell and Seb Coe. That experience reinforced that the most important thing in any organisation is to have a clear goal. The team's goal was absolutely clear: winning the Olympics for Britain for the first time in over 60 years. From that simple goal we reverse engineered a very different approach to our bid. Rather than focus on what the Olympics would do for our city, like every other bid, we set out what London would do for the Olympics. The enduring image of our final presentation tape wasn't Paula Radcliffe running down the Mall, but a young runner from South Africa inspired to Olympic success.
The radical approach was the clincher and for once a British team scored when it mattered. A clear vision drives you to more radical thinking: you're focused on the end, not the means. The destination, not how you get there.
So in TV, what is the vision?
Well for me it's the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, Sky - everybody in open competition and flourishing as a result. Entertainment shows that have us clustered around the office oxygen cooler; Home-grown drama so addictive we download the next episode to watch on our J-Pods on our way to work. And, of course, Coronation Street top of the pops every week. Sound familiar? That's because what we've currently got, for all its cyclical ups and downs, is really, really precious. But - ironically - to preserve what we've always had, is actually going to take some pretty radical thinking.
ITV: terminal decline?
At ITV, that thinking started a while back. I know to some a "radical ITV" might seem a contradiction in terms. For decades, the consensus has been of an old-fashioned broadcaster in decline. Now every month seems to bring another "Worst night ever for ITV" headline. Some will tell you the "mass audience" has evaporated - niche is where it's at. Others that advertisers have fallen out of love with TV - as the World Cup showed. The doomsayers predict a vicious circle: advertisers spend less on ITV; ITV spends less on programmes; viewers spend less time with ITV. To the Cassandra columnists, a year on from its 50th birthday, ITV has lurched from mid-life crisis to a premature death bed. And switchover is seen as the final nail in the ITV coffin.
Rumours of ITV's death are greatly exaggerated
It's a seductively easy picture to paint. And it can be hard to stick your neck out and disagree with the consensus. But it is of course absolutely wrong. First some obvious facts. ITV1 is still the number one UK channel in peak. More people watch ITV1 than our five largest commercial competitors combined. We still scale the ratings heights. This summer over 20 million viewers watched the World Cup on ITV1. Our event programming - X Factor, Dancing on Ice, Soccer Aid - they have the whole nation talking, not just a chunk of 16-24s. And, week in week out, Corrie and Emmerdale pull in greater audiences than any other commercial channel manages all year.
What's more, ITV is not a legacy analogue business. In digital homes, we have three of the top 10 commercial channels; in Freeview, four of the top 10. We have the UK's number one participation TV business. The strongest commercial position on DTT. And, in Friends Reunited, the UK's top commercial web presence. All this and we still found time to resolve the vexed issue of ITV ownership. In a world where most mergers go wrong, we got ours right. We made our savings, doubled our profits and created a unified national broadcaster. We've built the UK's top commercial production company - with major international success. We're the only non-US producer ever to have shows on all 5 US networks at the same time. Another fantastic achievement.
I could go on and on, and - this being the polite MacTaggart - no one could stop me. But if these are the facts, how could so many get it so wrong about ITV? What gets left out is that we're in the middle of a transition. The transition to digital involves a fundamental law of broadcasting. Let's call it Airey's Law. Airey's Law states that a channel's share of viewing in a 30-channel home will be less than in a five-channel home. It will be lower still in a 200-channel home. That's not "endemic underperformance" or "inexorable decline" - it's simple arithmetic.
ITV recognised the realities of the shift to digital some time ago. We focused on the destination - the fully digital world of 2012. And we launched a radical strategy based, not on minimising the pain of the journey, but the value of the destination. We too reverse engineered our bid for 2012. And, like London, I believe that bid will prove successful.
That confidence is reflected in the post-switchover target we recently set for ITV. We've said we'll get 38.5% of commercial ratings. Think about that for a moment: In a world of 100% digital take-up, of hundreds of channels, of near limitless choice, we've said we'll get nearly 40% of commercial viewing. I think that is no mean feat. So the idea that digital switchover will be the "final nail in ITV's coffin" could not be further from the truth. Indeed, switchover will allow us to nail the myth of ITV decline once and for all.
Of course none of that gets you away from the need to deliver the very best programmes. A lot of people will tell you that ITV's woes could be solved at a stroke if only we had a stronger schedule. Forget all this structural stuff - it's self inflicted. Well, to a point. First, for ITV1 at least, that schedule is about much more than one or two programmes. This year has been tough, but we've still had some fantastic shows from Lewis to Wild at Heart, from Soapstar Superstar to Dancing on Ice. And that's with the likes of Cracker, Prime Suspect, and I'm a Celebrity still to come. Would I have wanted even more programming of that quality? Absolutely. But resources are not unlimited. And anyway, even with all the money in the world - say, an income rising by RPI+2.3% for seven years - commissioning hits remains the ultimate risk business.There will always be misses alongside the hits.
As a chief executive, my job has been to get the very best commissioning team in place and give them the time and resources they need to deliver. I believe that ITV has now got the best commissioners in UK television, working alongside some of the UK's most talented producers, including many of you here this evening: they will deliver. The challenges remain for ITV. But I'm not here to talk about business models and profits, CRR and PVRs. That's the day job. Someone else's day job soon! My real concern tonight is how our established broadcasting ecology may be reshaped by all this change. And, more importantly, what the hell we will be left with at the end of it all.
Let me get one thing straight. I'm not talking here about public service broadcasting. Even my critics concede that I've fought a pretty good fight on the regulatory front. And I've been praised and criticised in equal measure for rolling back ITV's PSB obligations. Actually I disagree with all of that. (Except for the bit about me doing a good job, obviously.)
The truth is that Ofcom started the - long overdue - process of modernising ITV's obligations because it recognised that the analogue PSB model was bust. And far from going too far, I believe that we have not gone far enough. We're still applying sticking plasters to analogue PSB, rather than developing a sustainable digital model. It's all about tweaks, in-flight adjustments, rather than putting commercial PSB on a secure footing for the future.
Judging by comments from its departing boss, even Ofcom seems to have accepted that. And I hope that my successor will be able to hold Stephen Carter's successor to that analysis. But if further progress is to be made, we need to stop casting our thinking in terms of "reductions" here and "cuts" there.
The reality is that the digital transition is one of tremendous opportunity for public service broadcasting. However, it will not be measured in hours and minutes on a handful of analogue television channels. If kids watch programmes on dedicated channels, like CITV, rather than ITV1, good for them. If we move from regional bulletins on TV to a 24-hour on-demand broadband service, great news.
We need to approach PSB focused on what works in the era we're entering, rather than what represents the shortest distance from where we are now. And that means more big changes - not worrying about whether we could have squeezed another year or two out of the current model.
The bigger issue
Because the truth is PSB is not the most important issue that we face. In fact, I'd go further and say that over the last few years the "PSB decoy" has obscured the real challenge. There is a much bigger question - a billion pound question.
For years, in UK TV we lived in the land of plenty, a land of balance, calm, equilibrium. Every year or so we could afford to trot up to Edinburgh or Cambridge and debate PSB. And what characterised that debate more than anything was not what it was about, but what it took for granted. Sometimes it seemed like the programmes the broadcasters wanted to make and viewers wanted to watch were forgotten, while we argued over the programmes the broadcasters didn't want to make and viewers didn't really want to watch.
I always thought that was too simplistic. But certainly, for ITV, the unspoken assumption was that most of what we did - the original drama, the regional network production, the big budget entertainment, the popular factual, an investment in originated programming greater than any other commercial broadcaster in Europe.
All of that could be taken for granted. In the immortal words of Bullseye's Jim Bowen: that was safe. But - although we have an inch-thick Communications Act and still more regulation than you could shake a stick at - we shouldn't kid ourselves that such investment in programming is a function of legislation, regulation or policy.
There is no law out there that ITV has to invest £1bn in programming. There's no regulatory instrument that decrees that Channel 4 will spend £500m. We've done it because we can, we've done it because we want to, and we've done it because it works, economically. The market gave us both the means and the motive to invest heavily in programming. Commercial self-interest is a wonderful thing.
The transition from the old model
But the market giveth, the market taketh away. And even with all the legislation and regulation in the world, you can't buck the market. Look at ITV. Two lines - advertising revenues and programming costs - are steadily converging. This year ITV1 advertising revenues will be lower than any year since 1993. But over the same period, ITV's investment in programming is up well over 50% reaching nearly two thirds of our total ad revenues, an historic record.
Investing more and more to generate less and less just isn't sustainable. That's not a threat or a negotiating stance for Ofcom, but a grim fact of economic life. The same applies beyond ITV.
At the extreme, we're in danger of a sort of "trading down": ITV becomes Channel 4; Channel 4 becomes Channel Five, and so on.The upshot will be a poorer viewing experience for the British public. We'll all have a nice digital television and a shiny set top box. We'll have dozens of channels. We may even have high definition. But we won't actually have anything we want to watch.
There are no easy answers to the billion pound question. It certainly is not a case of small in-flight adjustments. Again, it demands radical solutions. At ITV, yes it means sorting out the PSB hand tied behind our back and the CRR gun to our head ...
Of course it also means the best possible programmes on-screen. But, as critically, it means our advertisers deciding what they want. They tell us they want ITV to be strong, to deliver mass, to own event, to surprise with drama that shakes the trees. But the flip side of that - investing with us in the schedule, giving us the financial firepower to do the job - they're just not quite there yet. Kicking the ITV dog is too much fun, especially when you still bear the teeth marks from decades of deal rounds.
The truth is that ITV plc - the business - has lots of other ways it could make money and be profitable. ITV - the broadcaster - the thing we care about, the ITV that connects with people, the ITV some of you make programmes for, that ITV has only two paths in front of it. Up or down.
And it is for advertisers as much as Ofcom or the government to decide which they choose. But, as I've thought on more than one occasion this summer, "enough about ITV already". I'm not here to write a "to do list" for my successor. And the billion pound question is much wider than ITV. It's about investment in original production across the commercial television industry.
So, looking beyond ITV, I want to talk about two critical areas which might form part of the solution: where investment in programmes goes - the UK production sector, and where that investment comes from - the UK broadcasting market.
One of the advantages of looking at our industry from the departure lounge of ITV is that you can come to everything afresh. You start to question everything with the healthy perspective of an outsider once again. I recommend it to everyone! And the first radical question that occurs is whether the production structure we all inherited from the analogue era is now fit for purpose.
I'm not talking about the indy quota, there are two other interventions in the production market so much part of the conventional wisdom, that we often take them for granted:
Channel 4 being established as a publisher broadcaster, barred from producing
and the UK's biggest producer, the BBC itself, barred from serving the market beyond the Corporation.
What these two restrictions have done is hold back competition in order to let the commercial production market develop. That may have made perfect sense at the time. But the danger is that rather than encouraging creative competition, those same restrictions end up undermining it.
Apply the outsider test for a moment: what would someone from another country, another planet even, make of the current protectionist rules? Well, usually you'd expect the tightest strings to be attached to public money. I'd guess that that holds even in Ursa Minor. But, in this case, it is Channel 4 that is told that it cannot spend its commercial revenues on in-house production. And it is the BBC which is free to use its public funding to retain a standing army of "kept" producers.
Doesn't this feel slightly strange? I think it does, and in practice the strains are beginning to show.
First Channel 4. There can be no doubt that commercial power is shifting from broadcasting to production. There's a regulatory dimension, but it's more about the development of the market, the erosion of established platforms and new means of distributing content. With wall to wall Big Brother in prime time and blanket Deal or No Deal in daytime, Endemol is near the point where it could cut out the middle-man and launch its own channel. Channel Baz anyone? More Baz? And to help with it's regional remit, a channel from Yorkshire, E-Baz?
And, as Channel 4 becomes more dependent on independents, the indies are becoming less dependent on Channel 4 - the value of programmes is moving beyond first terrestrial transmission. With no ability to make any programmes in house, Channel 4 could become more and more exposed. Only "publish" and they could be "damned". That's why Andy Duncan has publicly questioned whether the publisher broadcaster model still makes sense and I can see why. Perhaps the time is right for that to change.
By contrast, the BBC faces no such commercial challenges. The licence fee is there to fund public value to licence fee payers, not to maximise commercial value. Why should the licence fee fund a production infrastructure alongside one for commissioning and distribution?
It is, after all, the British Broadcasting Corporation, not the British Production Company. And it puts BBC producers under a form of creative house arrest with only one internal market for their ideas. If we'd operated the same restriction at ITV, UK viewers would never have seen The Royle Family, The Street, The Deal. Even Countdown God love it. I suspect that it is these creative constraints, as much as the big bucks, behind the current brain drain from the BBC. It doesn't have to be this way. We could free up BBC producers to produce for the whole of the market, for viewers of all channels.
There is an obvious way of making that happen. There is a wall of private equity money out there keen to invest in and grow UK production. OK, perhaps the wall now has one or two small Steve Morrison-sized holes in it, but it's still pretty substantial.
Where it makes sense, let it, rather than the license fee payer, bankroll production. I'm not talking about selling off BBC Production wholesale as a "job lot". But why not package up some of the more commercial elements and spin them off into the market? Either with the producers themselves or to entrepreneurial indies. In a sense, this is already happening by default via the introduction of the WOCC. Far better for it to be a pro-active policy.
Imagine what powerful getting togethers there would be between the indie world with all their hard-won, business acumen, and the BBC world with its equally hard won programming prowess? I know that many in the independent sector would relish the prospect - they've told me so - and I think that BBC producers too would stand to gain. The prize for broadcasters would be massive: all UK channels able to commission the very best programmes from all UK producers. I think that is the least that UK viewers deserve. And the UK production sector would be transformed with the licence fee truly operating as Tessa Jowell's "venture capital for the creative industry".
The other thing that makes no sense to me in my semi-detached mode is competition in the UK broadcasting market. If we are looking at the major funders of original production, there are three different models in the UK:
The publicly funded BBC
The publicly owned Channel 4
And the public service commercial broadcaster ITV
On paper you might expect a corresponding hierarchy of obligations and responsibilities.But if anything - quite bizarrely - the roles have been reversed. The publicly funded BBC has historically operated under a far looser set of obligations than either the publicly owned or public service commercial broadcaster. We're promised a new BBC system which ensures we are getting sufficient public value for our public investment. But for the moment at least, we are having - to coin a phrase - to take that on Trust.
But move onto the next level down and there's an even starker imbalance. Channel 4 enjoys very significant privileges via its public ownership. It gets a free ride in terms of its spectrum and makes absolutely no return to either the Treasury or to shareholders. In exchange for these privileges, you would expect Channel 4 to be held to a far tougher set of obligations than its commercial competitors. Wrong. Channel 4 has a PSB remit high on warm words, low on specifics. Effectively it makes it up as it goes along.
In key areas, Channel 4 is delivering less than its commercial competitors. Less original production. Less production outside London. Less news in and around peak. And no children's programmes to speak of. True, in some areas it delivers more. More repeats. More acquired programmes. More US imports. And let's not forget Channel 4 does spend £90m on education. Mind you that includes such instructive fare as Scrapheap Challenge and Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice. (I am just waiting for the justification of Wank Week as educational programming. But that could be a hard one to pull off even for Channel 4.)
More commercial Channel 4
The warning roadsigns are flashing past us at speed. Look at the Channel 4 afternoon schedule: quizshow, gameshow, chatshow, cartoon, soap. Or its peak schedule dominated by reality, lifestyle, US acquisitions and shock docs. When exactly did remit become a four-letter word at Channel 4? And look beyond the core channel: Channel 4 has owned and operated a gaming channel on the quiet for several years. Now it is planning a move into commercial radio. When was the decision taken that the UK wanted or needed a nationalised gaming channel or another publicly-owned radio company? These are big decisions - not just for Channel 4 - but for the UK as a whole. Where was the public value test or the market impact assessment? For 25 years, Channel 4 has operated on a free rein. It is like the BBC not having a Charter Review since before Margaret Thatcher sank the Belgrano. The fact that no one in this room under the age of 35 even knows what I'm even talking about makes my point.
But despite this commercial dash for cash - incredibly - Channel 4 is now calling for public subsidy in various forms:
"top-sliced" BBC licence fee funds to pay for switchover;
further tax waivers;
a bit more free spectrum;
and another £100 million a year in hard public cash, please.
Channel 4 is behaving like a 25-year-old still living at home. Dipping into mum's purse, even when it's got a fat pay check in its back pocket. Is it not high time the enfant terrible of UK broadcasting grew up? And - let's be clear - if Channel 4 does need an injection of public cash for PSB, it begs the question: what exactly is the rest of its schedule for? If the acquired US programmes aren't paying for its news, why are they there? If Deal or No Deal isn't paying for Dispatches, what is its role? I have no problem with these programmes per se - as a middle aged man who's been written off more than once I have a strange affinity with Noel Edmonds - but they are meant to be a means to an end. If these programmes can no longer subsidise the PSB content, they do not have any place on Channel 4. Let's not mince words: if we need to pay for its PSB content out of public money, the current Channel 4 model is dead.
For many, that's a genuine tragedy. A lot of viewers I suspect would like their old Channel 4 back. The Channel 4 that preferred the risky to the risqué, that sought out the bold, not the banal, the Channel 4 that was brave rather than brazen.
I have some sympathy with that view. But if you ask me as a Scot - and I suspect I am not the only Scot casting a beady eye over Channel 4 - then I want to know what my money is being spent on. And why should we be asked to subsidise what the market will give us anyway? And if you ask me as the CEO of a rival commercial channel, then of course I think it's all gone too far and we now need to face the consequences.
Rather than propping up Channel 4, distorting the whole commercial world, messing up the equilibrium of UK TV, undermining investment by other channels, I would suggest we adopt precisely the opposite course. Take the gloves off, make it a fair fight. Let's have a Channel 4 that pays it own way. Let's reach for the public purse only where real public value is being delivered. Let's give Channel 4 a proper remit. And, yes, let's put the issue of ownership firmly back on the agenda.
Of course, establishing fair competition won't solve all our problems. Justifying original UK production, delivering the answer to the billion pound question, will still be tough. But our fate will be in our own hands. We will have to back our own commercial and creative judgment in the knowledge that - if it does go wrong - the buck stops not in Westminster, the Treasury or anywhere else, but right here. In the face of this challenge, the response of some - Channel 4 included - is "not yet" or even "no thanks". My response is subtly different: bring it on.
So that is my small dose of radicalism. On PSB: let's get over it. We need to stop regarding every small departure from the status quo as the end of the world and look to the opportunities of digital. But let's vow to make this the last MacTaggart that mentions The Future of PSB. What we all face is bigger and scarier and more immediate. It's the threat to serious programme investment across the whole commercial sector.
Meeting this challenge is about a number of radical things. It must be about revitalising the production market and I've suggested a couple of ways this might be done. Letting Channel 4 produce if it wants to. Opening up BBC producers to the opportunities of the commercial market. Injecting a shot of creative adrenaline into the indy market and unleashing a world class production sector in the UK. As all our futures ultimately depend on content, I'd argue this is something we can't afford not to do.
Meeting this challenge must also be about fair competition in commercial broadcasting - and that may mean a fundamental remodelling of Channel 4. Not a backhander or a disguised subsidy, but a re-evaluation of its structure, responsibilities, privileges and purpose. It could go either way. It's absolutely not for me to decide. But either Channel 4 finds its soul again or it reaps the commercial logic of its current position. Deal or no Deal.
And, as for ITV: let it take its chances. Which - for the record - are pretty damn good. Of course it needs to deliver more quality programmes that people watch in their millions. But it maybe also needs advertisers to realise what they've got before it's gone. And it needs commentators, the City, producers even, to realise that the place ITV will be, come digital switchover, is a truly good place to be. And it needs everyone to stop chorusing that painful refrain from the back of the car, 'Are We Nearly There Yet, Are We Nearly There?'
It's true that recently the noise from the back seat got pretty unbearable. And it became obvious that to buy the team I appointed the space to carry out our ambitious renewal strategy, and to steer ITV to its proper place in UK broadcasting, I was going to have to pull over and let someone else have a go. If by doing that I've carved out some vital turn-round time for the team and helped ITV get through some of the inevitably painful transition, then that's what matters.
Living through all this change, constant evolution, technological revolution, running a media company can seem slightly terrifying. Sometimes you feel a bit like Guy Goma, the man who turned up for a job as an accountant and ended up on BBC News 24 being interviewed as a new media expert. You want to say "I'm sorry there's been a dreadful mistake, I don't know what is going on here." But it feels like that would be a little rude. So you sit in the chair and gamely try to answer the questions as they come at you. And after a while you think "Hey! Maybe I do understand this stuff a bit after all - maybe it's not so hard as they make out". But on balance, a little humility is no bad thing.
In that spirit, I do have one bit of advice for my successor.
When things are high -
Emmerdale has gone head to head with Eastenders again and won two-nil,
Carol Thatcher is Queen of the Jungle just for being Carol Thatcher really,
Torville and Dean have just got through The Bolero in Dancing On Ice without falling over,
- step back and let the people who have really done the work take the limelight ... the producers, the writers, the talent. But when things are low, that's your cue to stand up and be seen, take the flak, don't duck, get out there ... even let Dawn Airey and Alison Sharman persuade you to do the MacTaggart!
After a while, it all becomes part of the fun of what is still, and always will be, the best job in TV and one I'm prouder of having done than anything else in my life. And that's why it matters to me that we ask the right questions, address the big challenges, those that demand radical solutions.
I hope I've persuaded you that if we just cross our fingers and trust the old systems and structures will last into the new world - with a tweak here and an in-flight adjustment there, we are going to be sorely - sorely - disappointed. And we won't just have lost the PSB high ground. A significant area of the whole rich ecology of UK programming will be under water. And James MacTaggart wouldn't thank me if I hadn't taken this opportunity to point that out.