MediaWales: The Waiting Game Goes on; BROADCASTING: The Big Players Are Keeping Mum on Plans for the Industry's Future

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Byline: HANNAH JONES Arts and Media Editor

IT seems that everyone is still waiting for the ink to dry on the Communications Bill before they can express a public opinion on it.

People who should have some idea of its impact on broadcasting are either unavailable for comment, unwilling to comment, can't comment or say they need more time to digest the information in order to comment properly.

More than a week after Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell launched the ``work in progress'' that is the Bill, it seems the industry is still remaining tight-lipped on one of the two major issues that seeped from its pages, namely the will-they/won't-they nature of a possible merger between Carlton and Granada.

The first headline grabber was that Rupert Murdoch's long-held ambition of buying into Britain's lucrative terrestrial television market was no longer a pipe dream when Jowell lifted the rule which barred him from owning Channel 5.

It was a move that was expected, despite recent government ramblings about safeguarding plurality. So analysts have been quick to come out in favour (or fear of such a move) in the face of such commercial logic. But Murdoch was frustrated at the same turn when Jowell revealed her intention to allow foreign broadcasters to take a controlling stake in ITV. The second headline-maker lifted the barriers that have prevented one company from owning ITV.

Merger talks between Granada and Carlton - the company which owns HTV with its chief executive Clive Jones at the helm - are expected to begin in earnest, although no date having been set, nor has either side commented on the possibility. …