Paul Geroski, Chairman of the inquiry, said: "I am pleased that the Secretary of State has accepted our report and recommendations in full.
"The merger should benefit both viewers-through better programme quality and choice-and independent producers. Advertisers will also benefit from a stronger more competitive ITV and I believe that the remedies we have recommended will give them the protection they need from the likely consequences of merging the two sales houses."
After a thorough investigation, the Commission found that the proposed merger would be expected to operate against the public interest in two areas:
(a) its impact on Channel TV, SMG and Ulster TV in relation to networking arrangements and the sale of their advertising airtime; and
(b) the sale of Carlton's and Granada's advertising airtime and, in particular, the share for discount deals struck with advertisers and media buyers.
But, after wide consultation and an unusually large number of hearings with interested parties, we concluded that the expected adverse effects of the merger could be remedied if:
(a) Carlton and Granada agree a package of safeguards proposed by the ITC and also give an undertaking that the other ITV regional licensees should have the option to roll-over existing airtime sales contracts; and
(b) adopt the contracts rights renewal (CRR) remedy which provides ITV
advertisers with a fall-back option, enabling them to renew the terms of
their 2003 contracts without change (automatically adjusted, should viewing figures fall). An independent adjudicator, selected by the ITC and Ofcom, would deal with any issues that arise from implementing this remedy.
Several parties suggested to us that the merger should be blocked. But as we believed that its adverse effects could be satisfactorily remedied, our unanimous view was that blocking the merger outright would be disproportionate.
Finally, during the course of the inquiry other features relating to the sale of airtime caused us concern but, as they lay beyond our terms of reference, we believed that either the OFT or ITC/Ofcom should consider a review of the wider market for the sale of advertising airtime to see how the present system might be changed so as to operate more effectively and competitively.