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Government clears way for single ITV company

The UK government’s communications white paper has signalled a relaxation in media ownership rules that will lead to the creation of a single ITV company.

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LONDON (Brand Republic) – The UK government’s communications white paper has signalled a relaxation in media ownership rules that will lead to the creation of a single ITV company.

The news has been welcomed by the UK’s two main ITV players, Carlton and Granada Media, which will be allowed to merge to form a £10bn UK television company that will be in a stronger position to compete globally.

The white paper has lifted the long-time ban on an ITV company reaching more than 15% of the national audience. It has also abandoned the stipulation that the two London franchises -– London Weekend Television, held by Granada, and the London weekday licence, owned by Carlton -– cannot be owned by the same company.

The potential ITV giant will be regulated by the new communications and media regulator Ofcom, which will watch over TV, newspapers, radio, telecoms and, to a certain extent, the internet.

Ofcom will replace nine current regulators, including Oftel, the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Radio Authority.

The white paper has not addressed the issue of cross-media ownership, which does not allow newspaper companies with more than 20% of the national market to own terrestrial television or national radio stations.

If the cross-media ownership rules are relaxed it could open the door for newspaper owners, notably Rupert Murdoch’s News International – owner of The Times and The Sun – to move into terrestrial TV or national radio. The government has invited comments from the industry on reforming existing guidelines.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the failure of two major newspaper publishers to buy the Express Newspaper group from United News & Media, the Department of Trade & Industry has agreed to consider a lighter approach to newspaper mergers.

The Daily Telegraph’s owner Hollinger International and the Daily Mail & General Trust failed to beat magazine publisher Northern & Shell’s £125m bid with higher offers because Express Newspaper’s owner, United News & Media, feared that either takeover would face a full-scale competition inquiry.



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