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Carlton and Granada welcome Hewitt's merger decision

LONDON - Carlton and Granada have welcomed Patricia Hewitt's ITV merger decision this morning and said it brought closer the opportunity for a bigger, stronger ITV to compete on an equal footing with the other UK broadcasters.

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Trade and industry secretary Hewitt gave the go-ahead for the £4bn ITV merger between Carlton Communications and Granada this morning, with few conditions and no surprises.

She wants the two companies to work with the Office of Fair Trading on remedies relating to their airtime sales houses, the merger of which was also green-lighted, and measures to safeguard the interests of the other Channel Three licensees in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Carlton and Granada said that if details of such remedies can be concluded, the merger will effectively bring about "one ITV". The new business will be able to compete more effectively in a multichannel world as one company, with one management and one clear focus.

As a strong, commercial and united broadcaster at the heart of British television, one ITV will benefit programme makers, viewers, advertisers and shareholders.

Carlton and Granada said they will now enter into discussions with the OFT to determine whether a satisfactory framework, based on these proposals, can be agreed. Once agreement is reached, formal documentation for the merger will be sent to shareholders as soon as is practicable thereafter.

Charles Allen, executive chairman of Granada, said: "The new ITV will have one vision, one strategy and one management. ITV will have more investment in programmes than any other commercial broadcaster in Europe."

Allen said it was the view of the two ITV companies that advertisers will see better television, packed with the most popular British programmes, and backed by an absolute commitment to quality in everything from news to drama. "Our strategy for a more competitive ITV will create real value for our shareholders," he said.

Michael Green, chairman of Carlton, said that one ITV has been a long time in the making, but that this morning's news did not make it any less exciting.

"The new business will have the resources to deliver a winning schedule and a clear focus on being the best and beating the competition. The days of different companies with different agendas working in a 1950s federal system are finally at an end. A new future for ITV starts today," he said.

Shares in Carlton and Granada continued to rise this morning making still more gains on the back of the positive merger news. Carlton was up 10.23% to 198.25p and Granada was up 5.88% to 108.75p.

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