Carlton Communications and Granada Media – which together dominate Britain's ITV network – are bracing themselves for good news and bad news next month when the government publishes its long awaited Communications White Paper on the future of UK broadcasting.
The Whitehall leak-machine is letting it be known that the government plans to scrap the present criteria limiting any single ITV company to a maximum of 15% audience share – good news for both broadcasters whose corporate wallets are crushed against the barrier.
The bad news is that ministers are unlikely to allow any one company to control both the London weekday and weekend franchises – a decision which would scupper the hopes of Carlton (which owns the weekday licence) and Granada (weekends), thwarting their ambition to merge into a single all-powerful entity.
The government is also expected to duck a decision as to whether national newspaper groups are given more freedom to invest in TV companies. The status quo is that publishers controlling upward of 30% of national newspaper circulation are limited to a maximum holding of 20% in any terrestrial radio or TV group. Instead, the government will urge further consultation with interested parties, in effect just two media titans – Rupert Murdoch’s News International and Trinity Mirror.
Another key area covered by the white paper is that of consolidating the regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications. These overlapping sectors are currently policed by at least seven different bodies: the BBC Board of Governors, the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Radio Authority, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Office of Telecommunications and the Office of Fair Trading.
News source: The Times (London)