As the industry crawls towards Christmas, broadcasters will be forgiven for saying a hearty good riddance to 2001. This was the year TV crashed to earth after two years of speculation
As the industry crawls towards Christmas, broadcasters will be forgiven for saying a hearty good riddance to 2001. This was the year TV crashed to earth after two years of speculation over pie-in-the-sky new media ideas, many of which would never make money.

What no one could have predicted was the scale of the downturn, despite plenty of agreement that last year's dotcom bubble was always waiting to burst. But the cash crisis in the world of new media cannot be alone in explaining why TV ad revenue is down 12 per cent this year. The terrorist attacks of 11 September combined with the war that followed have not helped.

But TV was in commercial difficulty months before then.

By far the biggest factor in the industry's woes is the slowing global economy, but there are some issues closer to home that characterise the media recession.

First, too many broadcasting innovations have failed to offer anything viable to users or viewers. What were consumers meant to make of Taste, which resonated neither of Sainsbury's nor of the vastly less well known Carlton Food Network? And what did u>direct ever mean? By contrast, the phone and remote control voting for Big Brother and its text message updates fulfilled a basic desire - to gossip about what was on TV.

Broadcasters' conservatism was another cause for dismay. It's still easier to take ad revenue based on the old system of share of NAR than to develop meaningful new revenue streams such as subscription or transaction. Those behind 4 Ventures and ITV Digital would argue that it's not for the want of trying, but still broadcasters are struggling to turn investment in new forms of delivery into profit. Three years after the launch of a digital TV platform, 70 per cent of Carlton's turnover and 60 per cent of Granada's revenue comes from ads.

Finally, the industry harbours many blinkered attitudes, although waking up to the reality will provide a shock for those passionate about the diversity of British TV. A glance at the Broadcast ratings, where we now list ratings in all homes against multichannel only homes, confirms that the more 'worthy' a programme is, the less watched it is by multichannel viewers. So University Challenge, Blood of the Vikings, Countdown and Antiques Roadshow all rank far lower in multichannel viewers' priorities than for all viewers, the small majority of whom are still watching via analogue terrestrial.

This makes for some unpleasant conclusions, but next year the industry must take on board some of the harsh lessons of this year.