In My Opinion: Martin Hannan: ITV and STV

ALL my life I have detested bullies. Those who physically or mentally terrorise fellow human beings and big corporations that squeeze the life out of smaller firms – I have nothing but contempt for them all.

These days, for all the initiatives in schools, there are still bullies getting away with their nefarious activities, and it’s all very well telling kids to stand up to them when the bully is usually bigger and has a lot of equally nasty pals.

It’s the same in business. There’s a big corporate bully flexing its muscles right now, and picking on a relatively small Scottish outfit.

I’m talking about ITV, who are currently suing Scottish Television for the outrageous sum of £38 million. I say outrageous, because the troubled plc currently owes STV somewhere between £15m and £20m.

That’s not been mentioned when ITV and their chums in the Press have portrayed STV as reneging on a contractual arrangement to show ITV drama. In my opinion, STV did the right thing, because ITV drama in recent times has been a pale shadow of its former self.

Some months ago, I wrote that STV was just not up to scratch with its Scottish programming in particular.

I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by a series of Thursday night programmes which included an excellent two-parter on Scots in the Spanish Civil War, while the photography in Scotland Revealed was simply stunning and the new rugby programme is more than passable.

I like to think they read my column and got their finger out, but STV’s head of content, Alan Clements, assured me they had been planning to “Scotticise” the channel’s output for many months. There’s much more to come, too, so more power to his elbow.

It’s a risk which the company is prepared to take for the long-term benefit of Scottish broadcasting, and it could well do without the expense and distraction of a court case and an ongoing media battle with a big bullying network.

ITV plc is facing plunging profits, can’t find a permanent chairman or chief executive, and is basically in a pile of trouble.

How convenient, therefore, that they can blame the Jocks and divert attention from the network’s legion of problems.

Many in the media have swallowed the ITV line whole, and carp on about STV’s drop in ratings – this in newspapers that are haemorrhaging circulation.

I think STV should get fair play as it stands up to the bully, and I certainly hope STV take them on and beat ITV silly in the courts in London.

This article appeared in yesterday’s Edinburgh Evening News, for which: many thanks.