UK communications watchdog Ofcom is to revamp the licence renewal system for television network ITV as it seeks to lighten the regulatory burden on the broadcaster.

ITV is made up of 16 regional franchises, twelve of which are owned by about-to-merge duo Granada and Carlton Communications. Previously, the reviews of these licences were to be staggered between 2005 and 2007, but Ofcom now intends to hold them all early next year.

The move makes life easier for ITV plc (the merged firm), which is expected to lobby for cuts in the cost of the licences. Last year the network paid around £225 million ($408m; €326m) for the right to use the analogue spectrum -- a sum that seems increasingly difficult to defend as digital TV (channels on which do not attract a licence fee) grows in popularity.

ITV is also keen to reform its public service obligations, which at present force it to broadcast a minimum amount of religious, children's and regional programming.

Ofcom launches a consultation into licence costs and public service broadcasting in June.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff