In a move which surprised many industry commentators, ITV giants Granada and Carlton are to merge to form a single ITV in England and Wales. The companies were given outline permission by the Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, with only limited restrictions. The Competition Commission had advised the minister that the merger would not breach competition laws provided there are conditions attached to the way advertising is sold. At one point it seemed likely that the merged group would not be able to sell its own advertising as the new entity would control 52% of all UK television advertising as the new entity would control 52% of all UK television advertising (worth more than £3 billion). The Competition Commission have recommended a series of rules to prevent market abuse. As well as restrictions on advertising sales, the merged ITV group must agree to a package of safeguards to protect the protect the remaining three independent channel 3 broadcasters – The Scottish Media Group (Scotland), Ulster (Northern Ireland) and Channel TV (Channel Islands). In response ITV’s main commercial rivals in the UK (Channel 4, Five, BSkyB and Flextech’s ‘UK’ channels) are considering a joint advertising sales house. One of the reasons for the merger is to give the UK industry a unified commercial channel, but the merged group is still dwarfed by European and US television broadcast giants.
Statistics: The Stage October 16, 2003.