BECTU response to Carlton Communications/Granada merger inquiry

7 April 2003

BECTU response to Competition Commission Carlton Communications/Granada merger inquiry.

  1. BECTU is the trade union for technical, production and administrative staff in the audiovisual and live entertainment sectors. We have full recognition for purposes of collective bargaining at both Carlton and Granada in respect of their broadcasting activities. We therefore represent the relevant sections of the workforce in both companies.
  2. Our response to the Competition Commission's Inquiry on this issue is set out below. Our comments will be brief and limited to our own priority interests.
  3. Regional ITV production

  4. Our overriding concern is to protect the strong heritage of ITV regional production. This is of course, a highly topical issue in the context of the current Communications Bill.
  5. We believe regional programme production has been and should remain the defining characteristic of ITV. The advantages have been enormous.
    • programming on regional themes of great interest to local viewers
    • programming of excellence produced regionally for the national ITV network
    • significant benefits for regional economies in skilled jobs and business
    opportunities both directly in television and indirectly in the supporting infrastructure (confirmed by numerous business studies and summarised in the ITC's 'Television in the Nations and Regions').
  6. We recognise that the Communications Bill proposes the removal of the previous restrictions on concentration of ownership in ITV and thereby on the proposed Carlton/Granada merger. Our response on the Bill, and to this Inquiry, is not to focus on ownership in itself but on the requirements and strength of commitment on original regional programme production (specifically including regional production for the ITV network).
  7. We seek from the Government, strong regulations requiring regional production and from the companies, a strong long term commitment to regional production, including:
    • a broad range of regionally-originated programming of high quality
    • the use of the full range of regionally-based staff, freelances and production facilities
    • the maintenance of a wide spread of regional studio facilities and the avoidance of any further studio closures
  8. We believe this reflects not just the interests of those who work in regional ITV but also a broader public interest on behalf of viewers who have consistently expressed support (in audience figures and in survey responses) for a strong regional ITV presence.
  9. Our attitude to the proposed merger is directly related to the companies' commitments in this area, rather than a view on the ownership structure per se. If there is a strong long term commitment to regional production in these terms from the two companies involved we would not in principle be opposed to the merger. Our attitude is therefore entirely conditional on strong safeguards for and commitments to regional ITV production.
  10. The TV advertising market

  11. We note that the proposed merger would create a combined advertising sales house with over 50% of national TV advertising revenue.
  12. We also note, however, that the proportion of the total TV advertising market held by ITV is decreasing over time, with the growth of alternative channels. Furthermore, there is already very limited competition for regionally-based TV sales - with meaningful competition essentially limited to London.
  13. Our concern, ultimately is less with the issue of the combined sales house, than with the flow of ITV advertising revenue overall. We are interested in the maintenance of a strong revenue base for ITV to fund its future programme-making capacity. If a single sales house (combined with the common programme schedule required by the regulator) is an efficient means of achieving this, we have no objection in principle. This represents a development of our own views on this point in the light of the growth of alternative advertising funded channels to ITV.
  14. Conclusion

  15. Our prime concern is not with the merger in itself but with the long term future of regional ITV as a strong source of original programme production. Our focus is therefore on seeking firm commitments to this end rather than opposing the merger in abstract principle.
Last updated 16 April 2003