EDITORIAL: Maybe it is time that UK media players think big

Ironically, it was Granada’s Gerry Robinson who first called for a single company to run ITV. With last week’s proposed merger between Carlton and United News & Media, that vision took a step closer to becoming a reality. But the deal has implications which spread well beyond the sphere of ITV.

Ironically, it was Granada’s Gerry Robinson who first called for a

single company to run ITV. With last week’s proposed merger between

Carlton and United News & Media, that vision took a step closer to

becoming a reality. But the deal has implications which spread well

beyond the sphere of ITV.



Considering the merger from the parochial confines of the UK, the

creation of a new ITV colossus, controlling six ITV licences and around

35 per cent of all TV revenue, is a definite cause for concern.



If the deal gets a green light from the regulators, it will place the

country’s biggest commercial TV channel in the hands of just two

powerbrokers - the merged Carlton/United and Granada - with obvious

implications for advertisers.



ITV companies have always been known for their aggressive sales tactics

and any new concentration of power is unlikely to turn the crack ITV

sales teams into sensitive and generous negotiators.



Add in United’s ownership of Express Newspapers, Carlton’s ONdigital

interests and new-media assets, and the new combine will clearly have a

firm grip on advertisers’ budgets.



For these reasons, the deal will draw criticism from advertising trade

bodies and cause more than a few headaches for the regulators. Yet it is

unlikely that the merger would have got this far without at least some

discussion with the regulatory authorities - particularly since United’s

chief executive, Lord Hollick, is a Labour peer and friend of the

Government.



The monopolistic concerns raised by this deal are very real, but set

alongside the likes of a News Corporation, a Time Warner or a

Viacom/CBS, a merged Carlton/United is still a pitifully small player.

To take a narrow UK view is to replicate the missed opportunities of the

past which have ensured that UK media companies have been cowed on the

world stage at a time when the media industry has become a global one.



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