Can magazine publishers deliver goods on TV?

Last week’s decision by the Independent Television commissioners to allow magazine publishers terrestrial access to masthead programmes is a very welcome development, one which will benefit every link in the chain from publisher to viewer. It is also an advance for natural justice as the previous embargo was discriminatory and illogical.

But what will happen now? I do not believe that our TV schedules will be overwhelmed with masthead programmes, that would be neither practical, nor in the interests of the viewers – whose views should ultimately determine the success or failure of all programmes.

However, we know that viewers do want masthead programmes. Research recently presented to the ITC makes that abundantly clear and broadcasters will wish to respond to that demand.

It is impossible to predict which programmes will succeed or fail – if we could, no magazine would ever fold. But one can make some observations about the factors which will encourage success.

Better known brands will have a headstart over their lesser known rivals. However, the quantity of viewers and their appreciation of the programmes will reflect their valuation of the broadcast content; we may see some big brands come unstuck and some smaller mastheads achieve glittering success. This is, after all, publishing by a newly available channel and editorial is always the final consideration.

The programmes which remain true to the values of their parent brand, but which reinterpret them for the television medium, will also be those that thrive. This requires a degree of mutual respect and understanding between the creative disciplines of print and broadcast – not easy to achieve, but absolutely vital.

It follows from these thoughts that it will not only be the major publishers and the mega brands that have enduring success on television; though they are likely to be the first to market. Smaller and specialist titles will be represented on both terrestrial TV and, of course, cable, satellite and digital.

At National Magazines, we remain committed to translating our brands through a widening range of activities and that goes very much for TV programming. We shall be continuing, initiating and developing discussions with current and potential partners and I look forward to the new opportunities.

It is not, however, our intention to rush out new programmes for their own sake. We remain absolutely committed to quality in everything we do; we shall want to be sure that is right before we go public.

We shall also want to satisfy ourselves that we are creating business opportunities as well as programmes. Our activity to date has had more to do with learning the ropes than pulling in new profits, we still have a lot to learn and are still in an investment phase, but we have to confirm the prospect of a pay back – I am sure that we will .

So, I should like publicly to thank and applaud the commissioners for their decision. It is a watershed for publishing and broadcasting, although the continuation, and indeed extension, of needless restrictions on content takes a little gilt off the gingerbread and we shall want to return to that in due course.

But that is for the future. For the present, the ITC has improved opportunities for viewers: it is up to us all to ensure that we deliver.

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