Grade said ITV would prefer to remain a licensed public service broadcaster, if justified economically, but he set out six basic principles that the broadcaster will use to judge the three refined funding models proposed by Ofcom.
Firstly, the benefits of a new settlement must at least match the costs it imposed, said Grade. Next, ITV did not want any direct public money, wishing instead to operate as a free-standing commercial business, with less, rather than more, regulation. The third point Grade called universality, saying viewer expectations and economics dictate that it must retain the widest coverage of the UK.
The chairman also called for a unified ITV brand, with the broadcaster able to manage the control of the brand with more coherent branding across the UK, to provide a level playing field against its unified competitors BBC and Sky.
Grade’s fifth point concerned certainty. He said: After years of discussion, consultation and regulatory adjustments, and with an existing right to licence renewal, there is no value in the distraction of any protracted tender process for future licences with modest value.
I honestly do not believe the industry could survive such an expensive and unnecessary disruption.
Finally, Grade stressed that ITV expected to operate in a free marketplace, and on fair market terms with its competitors, customers and suppliers, adding: All future regulatory requirements beyond our commitment to programme investment and news must reflect this.
If ITV did not continue to operate as a PSB, Grade suggested it could buy its existing DTT spectrum at the market rate – with the proceeds possibly available to other broadcasters.
Alternatively, it could buy commercial DTT capacity in the market. He went on to point out though, that should this option materialise, there would be no regulatory prescription and without a PSB licence, there could be no guarantee of any particular type or level of programme provision.
Grade’s speech was given in response to the publication of Ofcom’s Phase 2 report on PSB in the UK, published two weeks ago. Culture minister Andy Burnham said the matter would now be treated as urgent and is aiming for a decision in January 2009.