MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE - ITV needs a global player if it is to rise above the small fry

Apparently, when Ted Turner takes a pee his (male?) PA stands at his shoulder taking dictation. So busy is Mr Turner that not even the urinal stands between him and his next deal. It’s nice to think that his dollars 8.3 billion and status as Time Warner’s largest individual shareholder and the US’s largest landowner comes at such a price - no sloping off to read the morning’s tabloid behind the closed loo door for old Ted.

Apparently, when Ted Turner takes a pee his (male?) PA stands at

his shoulder taking dictation. So busy is Mr Turner that not even the

urinal stands between him and his next deal. It’s nice to think that his

dollars 8.3 billion and status as Time Warner’s largest individual

shareholder and the US’s largest landowner comes at such a price - no

sloping off to read the morning’s tabloid behind the closed loo door for

old Ted.



Such focus has undoubtedly helped make him the man he is today: very

well off, and - although perhaps not quite central to AOL/Time Warner

(value: dollars 141bn) - a media mogul of the highest order.



Take a recent convention in the US to celebrate the 20th anniversary of

CNN. The shebang kicked off with a head-to-head opener by Bush and Gore,

followed by a presentation from Koffi Annan, a piece to camera by

Vladimir Putin, the thoughts and aspirations from a live Gorbachev and,

er, Jane Fonda (although she’s still mad at Ted, apparently).



A clutch of top European advertisers were among a select band of around

300 delegates treated to the musings of these and other key political

and international figures (and Jane Fonda). Now that seems like a pretty

impressive couple of days to me; no messing around with a few old soap

stars to give Ted’s party some pizazz.



Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic everyone’s getting very excited

about ITV. How clever Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen have been down at

Granada, sitting pretty now that Stephen Byers has voted in favour of

two ITV companies rather than three. Who will make it to the final

round? Will Carlton and United merge to form a pounds 10 billion giant?

If so, will they then seek a deal with RTL (pounds 14 billion)? Will

Granada swoop on Carlton or United? Or will it content itself with

Meridian (pounds 500 million)?



These are, of course, critical questions which will shape the

fundamental structure of the UK’s biggest commercial TV channel. But

let’s not be in any doubt that even when the time comes for a single ITV

company, it’s still not going to be enough to really matter in anything

other than the most parochial of senses. Merging all three ITV companies

would still only amount to a dollars 20 billion business (can’t imagine

Putin and Annan turning up for ITV’s birthday bash).



The only real chance for an ITV presence on the global stage is for a

powerful alliance between a mighty ITV company and a major international

player. And those advertisers (rightly) concerned about this week’s

prospect of an ITV airtime sales duopoly should also be concerned about

the concentration of global media power into a handful of AOL/Time

Warners and Viacom/CBSs.



If competition is desirable, it should also be desirable on the

international stage and wouldn’t it be nice if Britain had more than a

bit part to play there.



claire.beale@haynet.com.