ITV managing director Kevin Lygo used questionable phrasing to defend the duty of care standards applied to the channel’s juggernaut show “Love Island,” which has lost two former contestants and its host Caroline Flack to suicide.
In a discussion of the 25,000 complaints lodged against an episode of the most recent season, which saw contestant Faye Winter verbally abuse her partner Teddy Soares, Lygo said the channel’s duty of care overall was the “gold standard” for the industry.
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“So, with how people are selected [for ‘Love Island’], you know, GPs [doctors] are consulted. People are psychoanalyzed to death now,” said Lygo. “Loads of people don’t make it through and find themselves on other programs that maybe aren’t so rigorous.”
The term “pscyhoanalyzed to death” shocked those watching his virtual Edinburgh TV Festival session on Wednesday given the sensitivities around the deaths by suicide of Flack, Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis between 2018 and 2019.
Lygo also swatted off the thousands of complaints that ITV shows such as “Britain’s Got Talent” and “Good Morning Britain” have received in the last year, noting that “every week there’s a new complaint about our shows.”
“I’m not so worried about how many complaints as opposed to what are [complainants] actually thinking about, have they got points and did we overstep the mark or did we not, whether it’s 10 people complaining or 10,000 people complaining,” he said.
“With ‘Love Island,’ it’s very easy to take one episode and go, ‘Oh, that’s too much,’ but… it’s a longer term thing that we should be concerned about and, honestly, I think improvements across the board have been made.”
Asked whether the complaints reflect a growing aversion by audiences to conflict-centric television, Lygo said it’s an area “where you’ve got to take an editorial judgement.”
“People do shout at other people, but as long as it’s not physically threatening and it’s not inflammatory, it’s okay, but for some people they might just go a step too far,” said Lygo.
The executive also dug his heels in around the topic of inviting gay contestants on to “Love Island,” which has yet to be tackled on the popular show despite annual calls for their inclusion.
“‘Love Island’ is a particular thing. It’s about boys and girls coupling up, so if you want to do it as a gay version or you want to widen it, it is discussed and we haven’t yet found a way that would make it suitable for that show.”
Lygo did, however, point out that gay couples and a blind contestant had featured on ITV winter competition show “Dancing on Ice” while a disabled participant was also featured in “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here” last year.
“Love Island” wrapped its fifth season on Monday, drawing 2.8 million viewers to ITV2. Including the 400,000 viewers who watched the episode on ITV Hub, the audience totalled 3.2 million viewers.
Elsewhere in the session, Lygo discussed Piers Morgan’s exit from “Good Morning Britain,” noting that the divisive presenter put a “magnificent spin” on the show. The executive said it “wasn’t quite our aim to beat the [BBC’s morning program].”
“I’m not sure we would ever get more views, that’s not the purpose of that,” said Lygo. “I think it’s about making a lively intelligent alternative to the BBC, which [‘Good Morning Britain’] I think most of the time is.”
The broadcaster is still trying out a “range” of potential co-hosts to join Susanna Reid.
Lygo also addressed the consultation around a potential privatization of its competitor, Channel 4. ITV is believed to be among the interested bidders for the network, alongside Sky, ViacomCBS and Discovery. While Lygo did not address ITV’s interest directly, he did note that, “What’s important for Channel 4 is its remit, not who owns it. That’s what matters. It matters for all of us that it’s focused on Britain and British culture.”
In its half-year earning report in late July, ITV revealed that it had grown external revenues by 27% in the half year ending June 30 to £1.54 billion ($2.14 billion), compared to COVID-impacted 2020’s £1.21 billion.
Meanwhile, production and sales arm ITV Studios’ total revenue was up 26% at £798 million compared to 2020’s £632 million, with most programs, including flagship show “Love Island,” back in production and also benefitting from a number of programs and licences being delivered earlier than expected. ITV Studios external revenue was up 31% at £523 million.
Total media and entertainment revenue was up 25% at £1.02 billion, up from 2020’s £822 million, with total advertising revenue up 29% within which video on demand advertising (AVOD) was up 55%.
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