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 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.”