THE BOOK OF LISTS: The 10 Best comments on the ITV merger

1. Bob Wootton

"We have grave concerns about the consolidation of ITV in terms of airtime sales. I haven't met a TV buyer who could conscience a single ITV in the current circumstances." Bob Wootton, ISBA's director of media and advertising, 27 February 2003.

2. "Over my dead body"

Actually, no-one at ISBA has been silly enough to allow themselves to be thus quoted. Nor have the representatives of powerful advertisers such as Procter & Gamble, Kellogg or GlaxoSmithKline. But a succession of ISBA sources such as Wootton, the former director-general, John Hooper, and current director-general, Malcolm Earnshaw, have made it clear they would fight the Competition Commission on the beaches if necessary.

3. Malcolm Earnshaw

That's why some of us were open-mouthed with astonishment when we read the following. "We welcome the fact that the Competition Commission and secretary of state have so clearly focused on the views of advertisers." Malcolm Earnshaw, ISBA's director-general, 17 October 2003.

4. Bob Wootton

And this one too: "ISBA is pleased that advertiser concerns take centre stage in the Competition Commission and secretary of state decision. We look forward to working with Ofcom/Office of Fair Trading to clarify the details of the remedy and ensure the fairest possible marketplace for UK airtime under the auspices of an effective independent adjudicator." Statement from Bob Wootton, ISBA's director of media and advertising, 10 October 2003.

5. Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall, the head of the IPA's media futures group, is another who has, in hindsight, shown incredibly astute diplomatic skills. Despite combing the archives for hours, we've found it impossible to find any evidence whatsoever of his "not in my lifetime" attitude to the possibility of a merger. Which is a shame, really. On the other hand, we did find ...

6. Nick Milligan

"We will cease to exist as a commercial business if Carlton and Granada were to merge." Nick Milligan, five's deputy chief executive, 28 February 2002. Well, perhaps, Nick, perhaps.

7. John Billett

"Billetts is very concerned about ITV's ability through a single ownership to isolate individual advertisers, advertising sectors or agencies from its position of market dominance. A regulation-based solution could deter intimidation, but it would require far tougher and detailed sales house monitoring than currently exists." John Billett in a submission to the Competition Commission in the last week of May 2003. Astonishingly, he got it spot on, but made no friends in doing so. Particularly infuriating was the implication in Billett's submission that he somehow represented the views of a majority of advertisers.

8. Chris Locke

"Disastrous." This suitably pithy comment from Chris Locke, now the UK group trading director at Starcom MediaVest Group, is the earliest quote we have in our electronic archives on the prospect of a single ITV.

9. The Guardian

Finally, the press. "Those who repeat the 'one ITV' mantra should bear in mind that it will probably be at least a decade before such a move would theoretically - let alone politically - be possible." The Guardian editorial, 15 July 2000. Up to a point, Lord Copper. Up to a point.

10. Raymond Snoddy

And we leave you with a cheerful voice from what now seems a more innocent age. On 6 July 2000, Raymond Snoddy, the media editor of The Times, let on that he had heard some tall tales circulating in the media jungle. "The jolliest story by far has been the suggestion that ITV should voluntarily be able to form a single company, in the interests of the greater good, naturally." The greater good? Perish the thought.

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