MEDIA HEADLINER: Carlton's pragmatist focuses on investing in ITV's schedule - Jones believes his primary task is to turn around ITV's fortunes, Jeremy Lee writes

Last year Anne Robinson created uproar by posing the question: "What exactly are the Welsh for?"

Well, her query seems to have been answered after the job of running ITV Network has been split between two Welshmen - Granada's Mick Desmond and Carlton's Clive Jones.

And with Lord Crickhowell recently appointed to oversee Parliamentary scrutiny of the draft Communications Bill, it might not be such a surprise to hear the cry that the "Taffia

is taking over TV.

Desmond, Granada Broadcasting's managing director, is a natural and popular choice but Jones is virtually an unknown quantity.

A preliminary delve on Jones revealed an interesting past. He is the son of a miner, was born in the same South Wales valley as his Granada accomplice and retains his strong socialist beliefs.

Having spent many years in TV, Jones rose to the position of chief executive of Carlton Channels. He counts the BBC's director-general, Greg Dyke, as one of his best friends and, intriguingly, the 53-year-old is a former husband of the daytime TV diva Fern Britton.

But Jones' new partnership sees him and Desmond sharing an office at Gray's Inn Road and, for the time being, it's all smiles despite the scarlet trail on Stuart Prebble's sword.

"The ITV brand has taken a bit of a battering of late and we are both passionate and desperate to make ITV as popular and vibrant as possible,

Jones says.

While Jones and Desmond will share the job title of ITV joint managing director, there will be no doubling up on responsibilities. Jones will use his experience in regulation and lobbying while Desmond will be the front man, seeing agencies and looking after the commercial aspect. But the key focus, Jones stresses, is investment in the schedule.

This is just the stuff that the agencies are dying to hear. "The viewing figures are awful, inflation is crippling and the quality of the schedule is appalling. Jones and Desmond need to be investing in the product and out there listening to clients,

one broadcast director complains.

The consensus approach from Desmond and Jones gives the impression that Granada and Carlton are getting along just fine and are cosying up for the predicted merger to create a united ITV.

"Sharing the job between the two shareholders is just a sop to Carlton until Granada emerges triumphant,

one observer says. If this happens, the assumption goes, the Network Centre will shut, Desmond will get the top job and Jones will disappear to the Home Counties to count his millions.

Jones and Desmond talk cheerfully of their complementary skills and of their commitment to ITV, which is all very heart-warming, and it's a reassuring image imagining the pair of them sorting out the troubled network. But scratch beneath the surface and the reality behind the entente cordiale might be slightly different.

Now that the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, has given the green light to a united ITV and, more importantly, permission for companies outside the European Union to buy into TV stations, speculation is that Jones is merely minding Carlton's half of the shop until a US buyer leaps in.

Given the shambles after the collapse of ITV Digital, Carlton shareholders are going to press for a premium for their shares rather than accept a nice friendly merger with Granada.

Jones dismisses such talk and says his job first and foremost is to turn around ITV's flagging fortunes. He sees no clash of interest in his role at the Network Centre and his responsibilities to delivering maximum value to the Carlton shareholders.

But ask Jones about the possibilities that the Jowell proposal opens up and he comes over a little coy. "There are lots of exciting avenues ahead,

is all he will say.

One person who has worked with Jones describes him as a wily and pragmatic character and casts doubt on just how harmonious his relationship with Desmond will be.

It is said that Jones has a mixture of charm and ruthlessness in equal measures and can switch between the two in minutes - a useful quality if the balloon goes up.

For now, any talk of mergers and takeovers is just idle speculation and while Crickhowell and his committee of politicians mull over the Communications Bill, Jones and Desmond can only be judged on the job they are doing.

Nick Theakstone, the investment director at MindShare, says: "Jones and Desmond may make an interesting team. The stronger the management the better but we need more clarity and investment, and now they've finally got rid of the shackles of ITV Digital we should see some improvement".

That's if the politicking doesn't get in the way.