Expert view: How Giveaway was thrown away

Imagine you were giving away the biggest-ever cheque on television: £50m. You might want to make a song and dance about it - fireworks, dancing girls, a few B-list celebrities. Not if you're ITV, you don't.

Late last year, the People's 50 Million Lottery Giveaway crept out under cover of darkness and caused nary a ripple in the real world. Did you vote? Did you even know it was on?

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans came out of it £50m richer, but ITV threw it away in a pitiful selection of short programmes after 11pm, and managed to summon the energy to announce the winner only in the weekday lunchtime news.

Major disappointment

This will have been a major disappointment for the Big Lottery Fund: the culmination of three years' work and a wad of cash that the BBC would love to have had to play with. But three years is a lifetime in television, and what seemed important under ITV's former chief executive Charles Allen doesn't seem to be so in the Michael Grade era.

It's been a pig of a year for ITV, despite some limited success with the rugby and motor racing. The scandal over viewers being duped into making premium-rate calls undoubtedly affected the number of votes that were cast - only 286,000 voted in total, of whom many voted online, compared with twice that number for the regional votes for the smaller People's Millions grants, which were promoted through ITV local news.

A big debate is beginning about the obligations of the public-service broadcasters. What do we mean by that phrase in the 21st century? Surely it has to include a commitment to working on projects for the public good that aren't driven by ratings and revenue. Local news is where most of ITV's commitment to local charitable activity has been made, but its future is looking decidedly shaky.

Since it's the start of the year, maybe we could all encourage ITV to have the courage of its convictions and get behind some serious charitable activity. It has done good stuff in the recent past by supporting both the Carer of the Year and Year of the Volunteer campaigns. But the big shows of 2006 for The Prince's Trust and Unicef feel like they are part of another era already.

Let's hope that a new year resolution at ITV HQ in Gray's Inn Road is a renewed commitment to corporate responsibility, public service and working with charities - not to mention putting the results on air at a time when we can all see them and the winners get the credit they deserve.

- Nick Ware is a broadcasting consultant 

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus