Key decision-making (such as whether to take coffee black or with cream) has never come easily to government departments.
Little surprise, then, that the Department of Trade and Industry has extended by a further ten days its twenty-day deadline to rule on the planned merger between ITV’s controlling duo Carlton Communications and Granada Media.
Few believe the Competition Commission’s report and recommendations, currently sitting on the desk of trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt, are shot through with ambiguity or indecision. But there are almost certainly serious political nettles to be grasped – sensitized by the fact that the merger is a bellwether of the government’s recently enacted and controversial Communications Bill.
If the merger is approved, months of wrangling and dispute are likely to follow as to how best to implement the conditions laid down by the Competition Commission – the most controversial of which is likely to be that of how and by whom advertising and sponsorship slots will be sold.
Advertisers, agencies and broadcast rivals are solid in their opposition to a unified sales operation which would command over 50% of the UK television market. Carlton and Granada are equally opposed to a sales split, arguing that this would undermine the main plank of their merger.
Secretary Hewitt is unlikely to take comfort from the oft-quoted words of playwright Joes Orton: “It’s a dilemma, boy, and you are on the ‘orns of it.”
Data sourced from: mad.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff