The difference between 1994 and 2008 is startling. Instead of being the responsibility of four network controllers, most drama is now commissioned by one person.
So maybe a start to rebuilding the quality of British television (assuming that abolishing the license fee isn't going to happen in the near future) would be to make the BBC split the drama commissioning between their different channels and try to find some means of enticing the other channels to get back in the game.
That person is Ben Stephenson, BBC controller of drama commissioning. He has faced mounting criticism since last year, when he made ill-advised remarks about a “limited pool of talent” for television drama
But everyone missed the glaring issue: why are these questions being addressed to only one person? In 1994, I worried about the cultural power of four network controllers. Now you can forget Channel 4 and BBC2: they can make decent one-offs, such as Red Riding and Freefall this year, but both have basically dropped out of adult dramas. ITV has fared no better. In the 1990s the powerful baronies of Granada, Yorkshire TV, LWT and Thames had some autonomy. But their amalgamation into one corporation, followed by a catastrophic fall in advertising revenue, has turned ITV drama into a shadow of its former self. Whatever your view of public service broadcasting (and I support it) the near-monopoly of the BBC in drama commissioning is disastrous.
Incidentally is the decline in ITV's advertisng revenues wholly unrelated to the manner in which they have rushed downmarket at breakneck speed, I realise that a multi-channel environment makes their job harder but that isn't the whole explanation is it?