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on 23 September 2013

"Ray Fitzwalter, the man who launched a thousand investigations for Granada Television's legendary World in Action series, has written a sobering and profound book - part investigative journalism, part cultural history. Read it - and weep for everything that today's ITV has been allowed to become!" - Paul Greengrass, feature film director.

A book written by Raymond Fitzwalter, The Dream That Died: The Rise and Fall of ITV is a unique insider account of the rise and fall of ITV, as seen through the fate of Granada Television, and the ripple effect on the standard of broadcasting we see on our screens today. The unfolding of the story of 25 years, in which "The best broadcasting system in the world" was turned into "Ignorance and self-interest, the idiocy and feeble mindedness that is 21st century ITV".
A book based on more than 90 exclusive interviews with key players who had their hands on the money, and the power, behind commercial television, but who saw politicians, businessmen and broadcasters convert high quality public service broadcasting into a ratings driven commercial wasteland, undermining the BBC and Channel 4.
Accompanied by a collection of original photographs, The Dream That Died is essential for anyone involved in, or learning about the broadcasting industry.

Although mostly one-sided as it mostly concentrates on Granada Television, The Dream That Died is an excellent book to read with very interesting facts about the rise and fall of ITV, a station which launched on the 22nd of September 1955 (and the first commercial station to launch in the UK as commercial television was originally an American idea). When reading the book and watching television, you can see how much the quality of programming on ITV has gone downhill in recent years. I would say that ITV started to go downhill in 2002 but some would argue that the station started to go downhill in 1993 when Carlton Television, GMTV, Westcountry Television and Meridian Broadcasting all launched that year after Thames Television, Television South (TVS), Television South West (TSW) and TV-am all lost their franchises in the 1991 franchise round (the franchise round to end all franchise rounds), causing them to cease broadcasting at the end of 1992. There seemed to be a pattern at the time in that all the franchises whose names began with the letter "T" (excluding Tyne Tees Television) had to go under the station's regulator at the time, the Independent Television Commission (or the ITC for short).

Overall, The Dream That Died is a very good book to read that I would highly recommend to anyone who has an interest in ITV (well, the glory days of the station anyway).
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on 2 September 2016
Ray Fitzwalter,who produced Granada's innovative "World in Action" for many years along with involvement in many other in depth investigative TV programmes,sadly died in April 2016 aged 72.His book gives an insider's view into the gradual but noticeable decline of the standards of ITV from the mid-late 1990's onwards,inevitably from a Granada viewpoint but relevant to the whole network.He does not shirk from his criticism of executives like Charles Allen and Gerry Robinson who he accuses of being interested merely in profit and not quality programming,among other vagaries.

Truthfully, these attitudes have permeated with the rest of ITV, Channel's 4 and 5 and even the BBC now,with bland,fluffy,unchallenging or alternately sleazy,lowbrow,sensationalist programming merely designed to bring in the viewers at whatever cost,a far cry from the classic dramas/serials,sitcoms,documentaries and current affairs shows of the 60's,70's and 80's that Fitzwalter laments so much with justification.

Fitzwalter does go a bit too much into details of the boardroom machinations at Granada which become somewhat rambling and superfluous; it is at its best when sticking to main theme of 'The Dream That Died'.Executives like Sidney Bernstein, Denis Forman and David Plowright were hard-headed businessmen but still had a firm commitment to quality TV,but Fitzwalter argues convincingly that the steady decline of ITV and perhaps British TV in general began with the Broadcasting Bill of 1990,which led to greater deregulation and slackening of quality which eventually led to more and more programmes pandering to the very lowest common denominator,with ugly sensationalism, low grade trashy reality TV and documentaries and even pornography now becoming regular traits of British TV,profits and targets becoming more important that actual quality and intelligent programming.

Successive governments, both Conservative and Labour have stood by while TV channels proliferated wildly broadcasting insufferably artless,commercial driven pap driving down standards even further.There were bad shows in TV's golden era of the 60's and 70's of course,but there are far more now and they have the added distraction of cynicism,greed and contempt for its audience.There are too many channels,too many poor programmes, too many talentless people behind and in front of the camera and too many executives in charge who do not care what programming they provide to the public according to Ray Fitzwalter,and he was right.

It was very sad indeed when "World in Action" broadcast its final programme in 1998,the death knell for intelligent and challenging investigative journalism.This among others subjects such as innovative dramas,mainstream comedy and sitcoms have virtually vanished under a torrent of bland celebrity and often fatuous,offensive reality pap,hackneyed and melodramatic soaps,mean spirited comic performers and sensation riddled documentaries.Ray Fitzwalter continued to air his justified concerns about such dismal standards in TV shortly before his death,and it was a message that still needs to be heard, eloquently and passionately stated
in this book that will be a worthy epitaph to his memory.

Raymond Fitzwalter,1944-2016.

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on 11 February 2015
Ever wondered why the standard of television has fallen into the gutter apart from the odd hint of greatness? This explains it all. I, for one, had not quite grasped what actually led to the dumbing down of television in quite such a drastic fashion but now I do.The sad part is, I doubt we will ever see the standards rise again, considering the commissioning editors these days appear to have learnt their crafts in areas where taste, research, continuity, effect, have been well and truly lost. I feel for the crews who have to work on some of the moronic stuff churned out week in week out and that applies to the BBC too. No wonder advertising is now mainly sofas, PPI's, ambulance chasers etc. We used to have a vibrant, witty advertising stream in the UK, now the adverts are US led and dire. Glad I can remember the days of glorious television drama, documentaries, soap operas that did not have to have sex, murder, explosions in every episode, well written and FUNNY comedies, good quality light entertainment programmes but hey, I could be prejudiced as I worked for Granada Televison for 13 fabulous years and am incredibly proud to have been part of that wonderful family. I left before the caterers took over but the men in pin-striped suits were already moving in for the kill.
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on 9 May 2015
very good, of the lose of a t.v. company and the interferance of succesive government's - seeing it as 'cash' cow!!!!
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on 3 February 2015
Good heavens Great book, but purchased year(s) ago ?Good value.
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on 12 June 2008
A fascinating, intriguing and in some ways horrifying account of what was going on at Granada through the 80s, 90s and close to the present. Not so much behind-the-scenes as within the corridors of power.... the stories of the avarice and callousness of Robinson, Allen and co make chilling reading. I was there, but didn't know the half of it.
The book goes a long way to explain the complete sorry, downmarket mess that ITV has become.
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on 22 September 2009
The conflict at the heart of this book is the same as there is at the heart of the British TV industry; between the creative programme makers, convinced that they are on a mission to serve and enlighten the public, and on the other side, the money makers, who have to run the business so that everyone gets paid. The author, formerly head of documentaries at Granada, leaves you in no doubt about which side he stands on; much of the book is a hatchet job on Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen, the managers who laid off thousands of staff while personally enriching themselves and leaving Granada, as the author grimly concludes, "hollowed out".

That is my problem with the book: it's terribly one-sided, making little reference to the context of technological change which has had an impact on the TV industry. Some slimming down of broadcasting had to take place - ITV hasn't lost viewers just because it was badly managed, but because cable, satellite and digital TV (which is barely mentioned) came along, and guess what - given the choice of 30 channels, people watch less ITV. The section at the end of the book which tries to put ITV's decline in the context of incompetent British industrial management is not without a grain of truth, but unconvincing, bolted on.

Certainly worth reading if you are interested in British TV, and quite good on the regulatory context of the Thatcher government in the 1980s and 1990s (not as boring as that makes it sound). Probably a difficult book to get much out of if you don't know some of the people involved.
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