01 October 1998

SANTA CLAUS in the person of the Independent Television Commission, wished 'Merry Christmas and Happy New Year' to most of the eleven ITV supplicants applying for an early review of their licence terms. Gathered anxiously around the fairy-lit tree, the kiddies eagerly opened their Christmas stockings - and although every boy and girl each had a beautiful gift-wrapped present, some, alas, were bigger and better than others. The biggest and the bestest prezzie was opened, as expected, by GMTV - a scrumptious £30.5m cut in its annual licence fee - even better than a yo-yo! But poor Lord Hollick of United News & Media was so disappointed with his presents, he hid in a corner so none of the other boys and girls could see the tears trickling down his beard. Even though he'd sent Santa long letters about his three favourite toys - Anglia, Meridian and HTV - only HTV was offered a really nice gift, an annual reduction from £25.5m to £9m. He tossed Anglia's present back at Santa and said sulkily that he would 'study the proposals' for Meridian. Naughty little Michael Green of Carlton Communications told Santa what he could do with his proposed rise for the Central TV franchise but gurgled with joy as he accepted fee cuts for his London and Westcountry licenses. Gerry Robinson of Granada, such a jolly wee lad, asked Santa if he could also have a wheelbarrow to cart home the £30.9m saving offered to Yorkshire and Tyne Tees. Then everyone had lots of jelly.