Thwarted in its bid to merge with United News & Media’s television assets, there has been growing expectation that Carlton Communications had set its sights instead on Scottish Media Group, owner of ITV’s two north of the border franchises, Scottish Television and Grampian Television.

“Total speculation,” said Carlton in dismissal [although hardly an outright denial]. Insiders believe that the most likely target is HTV, the former UN&M franchise which Granada must sell to comply with the requirements of the Competition Commission.

Brian Marshbanks, head of the Independent Television Commission in Scotland, also decried rumours of an SMG takeover as mere surmise. He pointed out that these came in the wake of year-long erroneous speculation that Granada would mount a bid for SMG.

Despite the orchestrated dampening-down exercise, Scottish politicians were determined to milk the issue for whatever it was worth. Takeover talk highlighted the need for powers over broadcasting, currently in the remit of Westminster, to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, said Scottish National Party Leader, Alex Salmond. "Obviously I've got a bias in favour of Scotland having independent companies,” he added. “But we can't allow the future of independent broadcasting in Scotland to be determined purely because there has been some carve-up behind the scenes.”

News source: BBC Online Business News