ITV: Change of cast
Michael Grade is stepping down as executive chairman of ITV about a year earlier than planned, but will remain as non-executive chairman.
The reason is that the commercial broadcaster faces three significant strategic decisions - and ITV's board sensibly concluded that it would be inappropriate for those decisions to be taken by Grade more-or-less alone and then bequeathed to a new chief executive.
Better to appoint a successor, before the end of this year, to set the direction of the business which he or she would then have to travel.
The big decisions that loom, as result of regulatory reviews, are whether to remain a public-service broadcaster after 2012 - when all British TV goes 100% digital - and how to charge for advertising, as and when the existing contractual arrangements with advertisers are replaced.
Oh, and then there are one or two financial pressures, such as how to refinance £350m of debt due for repayment in 2011.
This morning, ITV said it "has no current plans for a rights issue", no immediate intention to tap shareholders for new equity finance.
Although advertising revenues are falling at an alarming rate - they're 20% down on the flagship channel - ITV feels it has enough cash and borrowing facilities to weather the recession. It is raising a further £58m of "covenant free" financing (or money without strings attached).
That said, ITV has discussed with leading investors the possibility of selling them new shares and may well have to raise new equity at some point.
When I spoke to Grade this morning, he said that market conditions were tougher than they've ever been since ITV was founded more than 50 years ago. Which is particularly galling for him, in view of progress in improving programmes, reaching more viewers and in removing shackles imposed by regulators.
So what is the future of one of the most distinguished brands in the history of British media?
A tantalising question is whether in the inferno of an advertising meltdown, the government and competition authorities would abandon their opposition to the creation of a super-broadcaster formed by the merger of ITV with channels Five and 4.
That would have seemed absurd a couple of years back. But right now, an ad on ITV 1 is cheaper per individual reached than an ad in a national newspaper.
Those are not the economics that can support the quality of programmes viewers expect from ITV over the long term.