Is it true, the old adage about smoke and fire? Probably not – if the source of the smoke is the Sunday Express.

The newspaper, which shares the same Richard Desmond-owned stable as a [G]string of ‘adult’ titles like Asian Babes, Readers’ Wives and Big Ones, last weekend published an unsourced report that German investment bank West LB is planning a bid in partnership with US media giant Viacom for Carlton Communications, the UK’s second largest commercial TV group.

Carlton, which is betrothed to fellow ITV titan Granada Media, promptly denied the story: “We have had no approach from West LB,” it insisted.

But media observers don’t entirely dismiss the feasibility of a takeover from this source – which would almost certainly receive a less hostile reception from advertisers, agencies and, most significantly, the Competition Commission.

Perhaps Desmond’s diggers, with their keen eye for reading between the figures, got it right?

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff