Carlton Granada shake-up hints at single ITV

The shake-up announced this week by Carlton and Granada Media has been described as the "strongest signal yet" that ownership rules will be changed to allow a single ITV after the General Election.

The restructuring of ITV businesses, including plans to phase out ONdigital and rebrand it as ITV Digital, were announced as Stuart Prebble was named ITV’s new chief executive.

Under the new structure, ITV will operate three businesses – the ITV channels, ITV Digital and soon to be launched website ITV.com. Carlton and Granada together expect the changes to save them £20m a year.

Paul McLaughlin, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said this "gave the strongest signal yet that after the election the ownership rules will be relaxed or done away with". He added: "They are already half way up the aisle before the communications bill, so they must be expecting to get the go- ahead for a full merger.

"We are already seeing the relaxing of regulation on news. This would seem to be sounding the death knell of regional licences as we know them.

"The NUJ has opposed consolidation of ownership as we are concerned about the impact it will have on the regional nature of ITV."

McLaughlin said he was concerned that the £20m cuts would lead to job losses and he hoped no compulsory redundancies would result.

Under the restructuring, ITV director of programmes David Liddiment has been promoted to ITV director of channels, giving him a wider role overseeing all services, including the new pay-TV sports channel, due to launch in August, and combining the sports rights of ITV and ONdigital.

The overhaul follows Carlton and Granada’s joint takeover of ITV last summer when it bought three franchises owned by Lord Hollick’s United News & Media and is the result of behind-the-scenes talks aimed at strengthening the relationship.

Granada Media chairman Charles Allen called it "the most fundamental change in British broadcasting since the launch of multi-channel TV".

By Julie Tomlin

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