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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 09:38 GMT
Casualties of the ITV merger

By Nick Higham
BBC News

What will the merged Carlton and Granada be called? Carnada? Granarlton?

No, of course not. It'll be ITV plc.

Except that Scottish Media Group (which owns two of the four ITV licences not controlled by the new group, Scottish and Grampian) is protesting.

SMG has been threatening legal action over Carlton and Granada's right to use the ITV moniker, not just on its company stationery but on the internet as well, where the pair want to take over the existing ITV.com domain name.

No doubt the new ITV plc will simply pay SMG to go away, but the row over names is just one of the issues that need to be addressed between now and 2 February, when the new company formally comes into being.

Already it's possible to identify two casualties of the merger. One is what's left of ITV's regional character. The other is Carlton's management.

The regional character has been under pressure for years.

Budgets for regional programming were cut back, and then cut some more, in the 1990s.

Regional identities disappeared as companies were taken over and renamed (Westcountry became Carlton Westcountry) and ITV's network branding became more prominent.

Audiences for the early evening regional news, which used to be among the network's highest-rating programmes, slumped after the disastrous decision to reschedule them before, rather than after, ITN's Early Evening News.

Now it seems ITV will be making fewer network programmes in the regions as well.

Shut down

Granada is to shut down its 1950s Quay Street headquarters in Manchester and move into smaller premises next door, partly because the building's six studios (designed when most television was live and studio-based) are underused.

And Meridian is laying off 175 staff and moving out of its Southampton studios to a new site at Fareham: many of the disappearing jobs were in sport and factual network production.

Both Quay Street and Southampton are far too big. Morale should improve in smaller premises with greater buzz.

But it's clear that both buildings are casualties of a trend which has seen more programmes made by independents and ITV's network production concentrated in fewer centres, especially London.

As for Carlton's management: there is apparently a febrile atmosphere verging on hysteria at the company's television division in St Martin's Lane in London.

Three of the new company's four divisions (production, broadcasting, commercial) are being run by Granada people, only one (news) by a Carlton executive.

Lower down, managers from both companies are being invited to apply for jobs in the new outfit.

But Carlton folk observe grimly that the job specifications all seem to have been drawn up with someone from Granada rather than Carlton in mind.

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