The stalling last month [WAMN: 27-Feb-02] of merger negotiations between Granada Media and Carlton Communications – the dominant duo in Britain’s ITV network – does not seem to have dampened their enthusiasm to unite the channel’s various constituent broadcasters into one unit.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, Granada chief executive Steve Morrison encouraged the ad sector to accept the need for a unified ITV to battle an increasingly ratings-focused BBC and the ever-threatening BSkyB.

Morrison branded as “daft” the current set-up of rival ITV companies: “In a global context, I can't think of a single channel around the world that is constitutionally set up to compete within itself.”

Declaring that the question was when, rather than if, a single ITV comes into being, the Granada boss added that he had observed “an evolution of opinion” among advertisers.

“A couple of years ago there was quite a controversial attitude around this question, but we have noticed that many advertisers have come to the view that because we are facing a stronger Sky and a stronger BBC, it is vital we have a stronger ITV and Channel 4.”

Such a change in attitudes was hardly in evidence among the audience, however, with delegates challenging Morrison’s comments. ISBA itself got in on the act: “A single ITV and a single sales market would be a quasi-monopoly,” declared a spokesman. “We would challenge Steve Morrison's argument that many advertisers are coming round to a single ITV.”

The Granada chief conceded there was hostility to a merger between his company and Carlton, the upshot of which would be one group overseeing 57% of the TV sales market. Assuring advertisers they would be consulted on the future of sales operations, he offered to use ISBA as a means to negotiate with the ad sector.

ISBA’s support or opposition to a merger between the two could be an important factor in determining the fate of the deal when it comes before regulators.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff