ITV Chairman Retires as Digital Dispute Rumbles On

17 June 2002

Leslie Hill, chairman of British commercial television network ITV, is retiring after eight-and-a-half years in the role.

He presided over a period of rapid consolidation at the network, which has evolved from sixteen separately owned and independently run regional franchises to the brink of integration into a single company.

Two shareholders – Granada Media and Carlton Communications – now dominate the network and are expected to merge when ownership regulations are relaxed. Hill will not be replaced, a sign that his post is now meaningless as Granada and Carlton pull the strings.

The chairman’s last few months at the notional helm are unlikely to have been his most enjoyable – the ad recession hit ITV companies hard, flagship channel ITV1 lost its ratings lead over BBC1 for the first time and ITV Digital, the pay-TV platform owned by Carlton and Granada, collapsed.

Fallout from the latter fiasco continues, with a lawsuit by the Football League (the three soccer divisions below the Premier League) due to start on July 26. The League is owed £178.5 million ($263.8m; €278.2m) for a broadcast rights deal – a debt it demands Carlton and Granada should honour and for which they deny liability.

The run-up to the court hearing will be marked by protests against the ITV duo by the clubs involved. Indeed, the 72 club chairmen – not normally noted for espousing the merits of collectivism – will take to the streets [by Bentley?] to picket the offices of Carlton and Granada.

Hoisting the red flag alongside the chairmen will be the fans, with six clubs due to man the barricades every day for twelve consecutive days.

The Football League is not the only party awaiting payment from ITV Digital. It emerged last week that the failed platform owes rival pay-TV operator BSkyB no less than £211m – over three times the expected figure – and transmission company Crown Castle £166m. Granada and Carlton’s ITV Digital Holdings is £402m out of pocket, while other creditors make up a further £230m of debt.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff