Outlook: The ITV Soap Opera That Lacks a Happy Ending

Article excerpt

FIRST CHARLES ALLEN, executive chairman of Granada, prepares the ground. Now Sir Robin Biggam, chairman of the Independent Television Commission, has weighed in with demands for emergency legislation to shore up ITV - for which read removal of the rules which prevents Granada and Carlton from merging and a reduction in the Treasury levy.

Mr Allen warned that Granada and or Carlton might fall prey to foreign takeovers if they are not allowed to merge. Sir Robin was similarly apocalyptic. Collapsing advertising revenues mean the commercial sector is finding it impossible to compete with the BBC, with its guaranteed licence fee income. The strong advertising revenues once assumed for ITV have gone, Sir Robin says, and it is essential ITV is allowed to adapt to survive.

The figures lend some support to his case. According to the last accounts, BBC One costs pounds 922m a year to produce, which is entirely funded by an inflation-proofed licence fee. ITV is about the same once account is taken of regional programming, but its revenues are plummeting, a situation made that much worse by Granada and Carlton's hugely costly investment in ITV Digital and ITV Sport. Plainly something has to give.

It is not clear, however, that the something envisaged should come at the cost of creating a single company with a commanding, monopolistic share of all TV advertising in Britain. …