Roger Cook: ITV cuts will 'compound the downward cycle'

Veteran investigative journalist Roger Cook has lambasted ITV’s decision to cut 600 jobs, saying it will ‘compound the downward cycle of this once great institution’.

Cook was the guest speaker this afternoon at a lecture for journalism students at Coventry University.

He said ITV’s plans to curb a 41 per cent slump in profits by cutting costs and jobs was a clear indication that the broadcaster was “pulling up their roots”.

He believed the announcement indicated that ITV was intent on “taking money out of programmes”, both this year and next, and he added: “It was the wrong thing to take money out of programmes that people watch.”

Cook said cost-cutting measures have had a detrimental impact on investigative journalism, and the expense associated with producing such programmes does not fit in with the financial structures of broadcasters such as ITV.

“ITV was once a system of very good programme companies,” he said.

“Regular investigative programmes are not afforded now because the management and commissioners think that it is too much like hard work. It takes a lot of backing up, and is very, very expensive.”

Cook highlighted such costs by referring to investigative work conducted in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, revealing that it cost £250,000 for half an hour of TV time.

When asked by senior journalism lecturer John Mair what he would say to Michael Grade if approached for advice, Cook said: “I would spend more money on programmes and less on personalities.

“How many programmes could you make if you didn’t employ Ant and Dec and Simon Cowell? The audience for my last six one-hour, one-off programmes averaged just under nine million.

“If you put out a decent programme, even at the kind of money we are talking about, it is cheap compared to light entertainment which in turn is cheap compared to good quality drama.”

Cook said that working with crews from ITV “was the biggest taxi meter in the world and enormously expensive” – an instance that highlighted the broadcaster’s inability to properly control expenditure.

He admitted to having little admiration for investigative journalism and journalists of today, saying “investigative” had become “a debased word’and had “lost its cajones”.

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