British regulators have an extra two months to investigate the controversial merger between TV giants Granada and Carlton Communications.
The two firms – dominant shareholders in terrestrial network ITV – were to learn their fate on June 25. However, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt announced on Tuesday that the Competition Commission will have until August 26 to finish its assessment of the deal.
The sticking point is the merger of the two firms’ sales houses, which would create a body controlling over 50% of Britain’s television ad revenues – a position advertisers and agencies argue is far too powerful.
Carlton and Granada are unwilling to accept a ‘structural’ solution, such as selling one of the sales houses, and have proposed a number of ‘behavioural’ remedies, such as relating advertising rates to actual audience figures [WAMN: 06-Jun-03].
The Commission has offered two further solutions. First, that a certain share of ITV’s airtime is sold every year to an independent party, which could then sell it on. Second, that big advertisers are next year offered the same terms as their existing ‘share deals’ with a guarantee that they can reduce their spend without losing their volume discounts if ITV’s viewing figures fall. These ‘share deals’ are unique to ITV, and offer advertisers money off airtime if they spend a certain amount.
“I have decided to give the Competition Commission a two-month extension,” said Hewitt, “to ensure all the interested parties have an opportunity to comment on the alternative remedies that have been suggested and to allow time for proper consideration before a decision is made.”
The regulator will now consult advertisers and agencies regarding the latest proposals.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff