Even Coronation Street's scriptwriters couldn't have conjured up the drama at ITV this year. One of TV's most turbulent years, 2007 brought shame on the UK's largest commercial broadcaster for the way it exploited its premium-rate phone-ins. An Ofcom inquiry into practices at GMTV (in which ITV has a 75% stake) found it guilty of 'widespread and systematic deception of millions of viewers', and a fraud investigation may follow. Chairman Michael Grade not only has to pull ITV's reputation out of the mud; he needs to ensure that ad revenues grow. Google's UK turnover now outstrips ITV1's - evidence that the broadcaster must change if it is to compete in the brave new media world.
New director of global content Dawn Airey was quick to point out that ITV was not alone in its deceptions. 'Between us,' she said, 'the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV have had what you could politely call an annus horribilis.' After joining ITV in January, Grade commissioned an internal investigation from Deloitte into more than 60 programmes produced in-house. It found 'serious editorial issues' and concluded that ITV had conned viewers out of £7.8m. Yet, unlike the BBC, Grade refused to dismiss any employees. A package of refunds, charity donations and remedies will cost ITV £18m. Grade's actions did little to quell the public outrage stirred up by Ofcom's earlier investigation into GMTV, which cost the broadcaster a £2m fine. He insists that new procedures will improve standards.