Watchdog Chairman Piles On Pressure in ITV Merger Campaign

18 October 2001

Independent Television Commission chairman Sir Robin Biggam has added his voice to the chorale of ITV lobbying for crash legislation to enable a merger between the network's dominant duo Carlton Communications and Granada Media.

The ITC, set-up by the UK government in 1955 to oversee the newly launched ITV network which then comprised several independently-owned franchises with exclusive regional rights, now has its hands tied by “hopelessly outdated” restrictions on media ownership, claimed Sir Robin. Especially at this time, when flexibility is needed “to meet both the market and technology changes”.

Speaking to a conference in Edinburgh, Sir Robin urged the UK government to introduce interim legislation permitting merger between the two ITV titans. “Without immediate action”, he argued, the collapse in ITV advertising revenues, alongside the BBC’s guaranteed licence fee increases, could seriously unbalance British broadcasting.

Carlton and Granada are suffering from the collapse in advertising revenues compounded by their joint losses at ITV Digital and immediate action is essential “to deal with the issues that need to be addressed now if we are going to have a dynamic and prosperous communications sector in the UK”.

Whatever the result of Sir Robin’s appeal to government ears, it will fall on stony ground with advertisers and agencies who vigorously oppose the concept of a single ITV company, pointing out that the network still commands around 56% of all UK television advertising.

News source: The Times (London)