But one of the Competition Commission's stipulations for the merger to go ahead was that United must sell its prized Meridian ITV franchise in the south of England. This condition, United and Carlton said in a statement, "undermined the merger's rationale and significantly reduces benefits to shareholders".
Initially, after winning approval for the merger, United chairman Lord Hollick released a statement implying that United would be prepared to sell Meridian. The failure of the merger now leaves the way open for rival Granada to seek a merger deal with either United or Carlton.
As the government has also ruled that a merged company may only own one London licence, a merger between Carlton and Granada seems unlikely as they both own London franchises.