Executive chairman Michael Grade has lifted the lid on ITV’s “tense” relationship with Scottish franchisee STV, claiming its decision to opt out of key network dramas is damaging the ITV brand.  

Speaking at the ITV half year results, Grade said he was “mystified” by STV’s decision to shy away from ITV’s content, choosing instead to show Scottish produced shows or US series instead.

“It’s a mystery to me, as a viewer, what they’ve got that’s better than what they’re not showing,” Grade said.

“Are repeats of South Park, an American show, and Gregory’s Girl really better than Lewis or Kingdom? It’s mystifying.”

He added that STV’s decision to opt out was depriving Scottish viewers of quality shows, like The Bill.

Chief operating officer John Cresswell added that ITV was “disappointed [STV] aren’t playing a full part of the schedule.”

He added: “We think [STV’s decision] damages ITV as a network and our ABC1 profile. Our ABC1 performance was one of our highlights last year and if Scotland isn’t showing top drama that must be impacted.”

Cresswell added that ITV was in “constant dialogue” with STV over their decision to opt out of the schedule, and was pursuing the “ongoing dispute” over programme payments.

STV’s director of broadcasting and regulatory affairs Bobby Hain defended STV’s opt outs, and said the channel was “proud” to be in the ITV network.

He said the channel was “building a diverse schedule that is relevant for Scotland and caters for a wider range of audiences”.

Hain added: “In addition to continuing to bring network material to our audiences, our commitment to deliver high quality and innovative Scottish programming on STV offers our audiences a rich blend of content and a very strong alternative schedule.

“We are proud to be part of the Channel 3 network and equally we are committed to investing in new, high quality Scottish productions and creating a diverse schedule for viewers.”

In its last annual report, ITV noted £22m as being outstanding from STV for programme payments, but STV responded by saying it and other licence holders added more than £200m in value to the ITV brand.

Both parties are seeking legal advice.