ITV boss says Brexit turned UK's democracy into the X Factor

Dame Carolyn McCall opened the Royal Television Society's conference in Cambridge.

The chief executive of ITV has said that the chaos around Brexit briefly turned the UK’s parliamentary democracy into a reality show akin to the X Factor.

Dame Carolyn McCall said that despite her channel’s investment in scripted television, some of the best drama was to be found inside the Palace of Westminster

Speaking at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge, where she opened the three-day event, Dame Carolyn described the current political environment as “unpredictable”.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

She joked that recent political events featured “eliminations, walkouts, deadlock, even a judges’ vote” – all hallmarks of reality TV.

She told the conference: “If you don’t fancy the new 9pm drama you can now start watching any series you may have missed out on first time round.

“Shifting viewing habits, developments in technology and the rapidly evolving competitive landscape are having a fundamental impact on our industry.”

She added: “The macro-political environment is even more unpredictable and as we gather here in Cambridge, we still don’t know what Britain’s future relationship will be with Europe and the rest of the world.

“In fact, despite all the investment in scripted, for much of the year, some of the best drama on TV has been delivered by the news.

“The Brexit saga briefly turned parliamentary democracy into the X Factor, with all the requisite elements: eliminations, walkouts, deadlock, even a judges’ vote.”

Dame Carolyn also reaffirmed her channel’s commitment to duty of care.

The deaths of former Love Island contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis led to increased scrutiny on ITV over the reality show’s aftercare.

Mike Thalassitis death
Former Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis (Ian West/PA)

She said that “with power comes responsibility” and that increased scrutiny was “a good thing”.

ITV recently announced an enhanced duty of care process for participants on the show, including a minimum of eight therapy sessions.

The RTS Cambridge Conference runs until Friday.

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