The government has given its approval to the proposed merger of the ITV broadcasting companies Carlton and Granada.
The deal will see the creation of a company controlling more than half the advertising on commercial TV.
It will also bring the popular soap Coronation Street under the same roof as programmes such as Kavanagh QC.
However, there are concerns that such a move could lead to a foreign takeover affecting public service provision.
Will the merger of Carlton and Granada improve standards on TV? Or will the creation of such a large company reduce quality and variety?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
With the exception of the very occasional program, British TV has been nose-diving for at least 15 years. Life without TV is really invigorating, it's like taking the security blanket away from a child, once you get used to it (also exclude radio - trust me on this), a whole world opens up. A world of positive activity, positive thought and the things you actually want, as opposed to the least worst of what's on.
The so called golden age of UK TV ended years ago. Television isn't even viewed in the same way as it was back in the days of three terrestrial channels. Multiplicity of choice has killed quality and pandered to the lowest common denominator. The merger of Granada and Carlton will make no difference to viewers as they watch little ITV apart from soaps in any case!
David Clarkson, Scotland, UK
It sounds like the same old nonsense put out every time Granada or Carlton have tried to justify any of their previous takeovers - you have to think to yourself that Granada and Carlton must be pretty complacent about retaining all those franchises when (if?) the next franchise round takes place - we'll still be slagging off the dreadful service in 12 months time, I reckon.
Richard Jones, UK
This merger has been sold to the public on the grounds that it will result in an improvement in programme quality. Twenty or thirty years ago it was the likes of Granada, Thames and ATV that produced the world's finest television. Now, any TV conversation around the water cooler is dominated by U.S. imports, such as the Home Box Office (HBO) hits The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and 24. I am less than happy about the prospect of ITV PLC falling into foreign hands, but if it takes the creative talent of HBO to get ITV's house in order I would retrospectively support such a take-over, however reluctantly.
Stephen Hopkins, East Anglia, UK
From World in Action to Pets Do the Funniest Things in a decade is all the proof one needs that ITV needs the plug pulled for good.
Read a book, go for a bike ride or turn on the radio.
Ever since Grampian TV merged with STV and it all became part of SMG, our regional identity has gone down the pan. Everything is biased towards the central belt - about all of "ours" that is left is the weather forecast! Now it looks like it's happening all over the UK and we are going to be left with nothing but homogenous London-based rubbish. Great! I don't think.
The merger is the least of our worries. What is cause for concern is the change in the law at the end of this year that allows ITV to be taken over by foreign and probably American media companies. If such a takeover should occur then it is likely that programming, especially news and current affairs programmes will take on a slant towards the interests of the foreign owners rather than portray things in the interests of Britain and the British people. I would like to see ITV broken up into regional franchises but above all it must stay British.
R Sobrany, Meridian Region, UK
I remember a time when the folks in charge of the various ITV regions used to care a lot more about the quality of their programming. Thames/LWT, Central and Anglia were all top notch companies. But I suppose I have to get used to the idea now that no one cares about quality, just the bottom line. Funny to think that in the old days you could still make a lot of money and provide TV that was a lot more stimulating than the pap that's on now.
Tim, USA (expat)
Apart from the occasional exception, ITV's output has been utterly awful and I don't see this merger changing that. It will be good for the companies' business but no change at all for the viewing public.
Andy Butterworth, Birmingham
It will level out the playing field with the BBC and that can only be good. As far as the possibility of escalating advertising rates is concerned, only time will tell, but my guess is that competition and supply and demand will prevail. Hopefully a better standard of advertisement will emerge!
Let's face it, this isn't going to save the golden age of television. It has more or less gone. Years ago, ITV produced excellent programmes like 'This Week', 'World in Action, 'Survival, 'Upstairs Downstairs'. Yet it also has had its quiz shows. But it lost its way years ago with cheap trashy shows. And it has lost its key Saturday night audience. In my view this is because the people in charge of programming haven't a iota of creativity like their predecessors had. But it's not just ITV. BBC 1 is as bad. BBC2 is following. Thank goodness for BBC4 and the documentary channels on SKY
Tony Williams, Milton Keynes, England
TV plays an important role in the lives of many people and is important. The reality is that there are currently two big players in UK TV, the BBC and Sky. The creation of a third big player will provide greater challenges for the BBC and especially Sky and should be welcomed. TV should still educate, inform and entertain.
Steve Palmer, UK
A very sad day for British television. Call me stuck in the past but the whole raison d'etre of ITV was to provide a network of regional television stations working together, providing a mix of local programmes as well as the best networked entertainment.
Now we are seeing the negative side of the 1990 Broadcasting Act. Cheap, lowest-common-denominator shows, regional stations taken over and local programmes reduced to a bare minimum. Mass redundancies from regional stations. And now the risk of foreign takeover.
The only hope for ITV now is for all the franchises to be readvertised, with no multiple ownerships.
Commercial TV companies exist to make money. They make money by broadcasting adverts. Advertisers like to buy slots when popular programmes are showing. "Standards" and "quality" are far less important than audience size. What gets the big audiences? The lowest common denominator, that's what. So, expect more of the same, unchallenging diet of soaps, game shows and various mind numbing dross.
The end of good old ITV started when ATV was ousted from its franchise and became Central. Once the regional indent went at the start of the programmes "to save time" it was the start of sameness. Then Carlton and Granada bought up just about every company. Carlton won the franchise from Thames but as far as I am aware has not made one programme that compares with the output of Thames TV. The merger means British ITV will end like TV in the USA. Based on the lowest common denominator and unwatchable.
Tony Martin, USA from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
This is bad... very bad. Remember, these two companies cheated millions of people out of their digital TV service, sent small football clubs into liquidation, and generally ruined the quality of TV programmes over the past 10 years.
ITV - It's supposed to stand for Independent Television. Now ITV is nothing more than a cartel outputting rubbish and filth.
Matt, London, UK
ITV's problems stem from the centralisation that has crept in over recent years. Whatever happened to seeing the regional indents from different parts of the country, and the great companies such as ATV, Southern and Thames? A single-block ITV will only mean more mental bubble-gum and tacky reality shows, as well as the loss of regional programming. Thank goodness our local ITV Company, Ulster Television is not party to the merger and still produces local programmes using its own logo.
Declan McGeough, Belfast, Northern Ireland
This merger is being done for only one reason, MONEY and has nothing to do with improving the quality of what the viewer will or will not have presented to them. The only people benefiting from this are the CEO's and the shareholders, everybody else looses including the employees.
Well let's face it, the programs could not get any worse. Lets hope the cash saved will help them make some decent programs
Nick Fowler, UK
It will be good as long as it does not fill the ad breaks with cheap loan and compensation ads - we are all sick of them!
I hope the ITV merger between Granada and Carlton does not affect Northern Ireland's ITV regional version - UTV. UTV is a great wee channel and the most successful (financially and quality) of all the ITV regions. I hope the new ITV doesn't mark the end to UTV.
It looks like the nail in the coffin for any trace of regional output. Since GMG took over regions like Tyne Tees the programme quality has suffered terribly, and regional identity has gone down the drain. Only 10 hours a week are allocated for the ITV1 regions, including News programmes, and I fear this merger will reduce that figure even more, eventually leaving only one great big ITV1. Of course they will just fill it in with more episodes of Coronation Street and You've Been Framed.
Adam, NE England, UK
I don't believe there'll be any difference, as England and Wales have the ITV1 brand onscreen, which is probably here to stay and there'll probably be very little change to the schedule as well.
Stephen Gordon, UK
In general, I think this is something to welcome. Joining these two companies won't deprive us viewers of any choice and hopefully the new entity will have enough financial clout to start investing in more genuinely original formats for television programmes. Here's hoping it won't catch the eye of too many foreign media tycoons...
Just how much of the £55m saving is going to the struggling football clubs ITV still owes over £180m to? Until that is answered, this merger is not good news and should not go ahead.
John Harding, UK
The "Golden Age" of ITV came about because the people working for the company were new to television and had fresh ideas. The world is now populated by "Media" graduates who have only ever known Student Unions and Contemporary Wine Bars. The answer is ITV2 - rather than using it as a cheap alternative full of repeats and American trash they should do a BBC2 and try out the risky stuff (The Royle Family, The Office, etc.) before transferring the successes.
Along with Sky TV they are both trash TV companies pumping out trashy programmes for a viewing public who don't have anything better to do with their lives other than sit in front of a box eating their pre-packaged, microwaved TV dinner dinners washed down with a with cold can of lager. So no, there won't be an improvement in quality because it's all about ratings and therefore advertising revenues. Trash TV sells.
Nick B, UK
ITV is losing the plot, a bit like most of their dramas! My only hope is that the larger company moves away from the current trend towards one quality, large budget production supported by repeats and drivel, to a more balanced approach with a drive towards higher quality running through the whole schedule. I would also appreciate a return to the days of adverts then programmes, rather than adverts, then sponsorship details then programmes.
I work for ITV (and yes, I very rarely watch it outside of work) but this merger is needed to modernise its operation. It is a hotch-potch of intransigent smaller companies and kingdoms that are in desperate need of merging. This will allow them to get rid of the dead wood and spend more on programmes that attract viewers (some of which aren't all that bad).
Let's face it, if it wasn't for Coronation Street, no-one would watch ITV. This merger won't make any difference.
Since when was ITV a public service broadcaster? Those people complaining should wake up to the competitive media marketplace these companies have to operate in. The BBC has a guaranteed income, BSkyB has Murdoch's millions - ITV was left out in the cold. This merger makes good business sense.
Nigel H, Lancashire, UK
About time this merger happened. The key reason ITV has lagged behind is due to the fragmented management and petty fiefdoms that the regional licence structure created. Here's hoping the Brits don't mess ITV up before the Americans get here!
Paul C, UK
I currently work for one of the companies and am seriously thinking of leaving. The merger is a joke and will force our staff to be reduced and for the 2 companies to potentially lose some of its most decent employees. Hunger for money and greed from the people in charge of companies has ensured it will be a very unhappy place to work for us - the people they are affected the most.
If it had spent less money on paying footballers to buy flats and Ferraris, ITV would not be in this mess and our media would not be exposed to predatory attacks by outsiders.
Imagine the quality of news once an American company is in charge. Truth? Balance? Yeh, right.
It's very good for British TV, giving SKY a real competitor and giving the UK a company that can compete at an international level.
Jason Ward, UK
When Carlton took over our local station, HTV West, all the familiar presenters and news staff were sacked and replaced by bland nonentities from the Home Counties. The damage has already been done - this just rearranges the ruins of regional programming.
Of course London still has its regional company - it's called the BBC.
John Rogers, England
John Rogers can't be watching HTV West. Call Jenny Hull and I "non-entities" if you must, but as for "Home Counties non-entities" steady on! Jenny's from Devon and I'm from Cornwall. Both of us returned to HTV West having started our TV careers there. I've lived in Bristol for the past 21 years. The changes brought in by Carlton have turned HTV West news from one of the least watched regional ITV news programmes into one of the most watched.
Richard Lyddon, HTV West,
A single ITV will soon be bought by an American broadcaster. It will reduce programme budgets, asset-strip regional outposts, and will lobby the government hard to reduce the BBC's ability to compete with it. The real loser in the long term could be the BBC, forced into a poor licence fee settlement and with restrictions on the broadcasting of popular programmes. Today could be the beginning of the end of the "golden Age" of British broadcasting, widely seen as the finest in the world.
Peter Robinson, UK
It seems that when ITV1 ditched regional continuity in favour of a national team of announcers, it was the laying of the foundation stones for the merger today.
More lowest common denominator, more mediocrity, more cheap TV. Why in a free market is our choice so limited?
Wendy Uk - Because that is what people wnat to watch - maybe not you, certainly not me, but millions of our fellow citizens choose to watch the claptrap disguised by ITV as entertainment so the market provides what the bulk of customers want. Choose BBC2, Channel 4 or, even better, a book or conversation!
ITV went down the pan after Thatcher's hatchet job on the network in the early 1990s (her revenge on Thames for Death on the Rock). This gave us the likes of Carlton and the slippery slope to the present nationalised, bland network, complete with inane idents. This merger is a final sad blow to a once great network whose strength was its regional structure. An American takeover will finally bury ITV. ITV plc? ITV RIP.
Another blow to the 'little guys' out there.
With so much rubbish on TV lately, it's only going to get worse. It's funny, the idea of splitting up the regions was to create more competition but with ITV and Granada buying everything up and now dominating the market - how can it be classed as competition?
I think this is likely to lead to a diminishing of regional identity within ITV programmes. When push comes to shove, it will be the London-centric identity of Carlton which holds sway.
David Hazel, UK
Let's hope the celeb idents get dumped soon - after all, the production slides will now need updating, and if regional programming is supposed to be strengthened, they might as well strengthen the regional identities at the same time.
So what are the safeguards to stop ITV from being bought by a US 'super station' such as Hallmark? The range of television productions is bound to suffer, as will the most important thing of all -regional identity. Patricia Hewitt and the Labour government have a lot to answer for.
Rex Orr, UK
It would make no difference to me, I have not watched a programme on ITV for years.
ITV should never have been about one or two companies ruling the roost. The whole basis of the ITV system is now long gone, and with it is the "license to print money" that used to carry with the ownership of franchises. A major overhaul of the network is needed to send ITV back to its roots - quality public service.
Stephen Howie, Stafford, UK
TV these days is all about audience share. They have to go for the biggest audiences possible otherwise the shareholders will be baying for blood. Therefore, the TV companies have to go for the lowest common denominator - as a TV company gets bigger, so the lowest common denominator gets lower. In this case, the amalgamated TV company will be in a position whereby it can dictate what an entire nation will be forced to view - and it will be of the worst possible quality.
The two companies already have a stranglehold on TV output. The BBC has tried to emulate them to win viewers, to the detriment of the medium as a whole. They should be forced to sell off the other regional companies they took over so we can return to the days of quality programming over cheap imports and endless adverts
ITV cannot get much worse. Most of its content has been dumbed down to attract a diminishing market share. Commercial television used to be a licence to print money in the UK, but the glory days are over for ITV. All they can do is to consolidate to save money.
Paul T Horgan, UK
Absolutely not. I remember being told the 1990 Broadcasting Act was 'good for viewers'. Instead we now have an ITV obsessed with money, producing cheap and tacky programmes and pointlessly broadcasting it all 24 hours.
So is reality TV programme "The Merger" on the cards?
I don't see that it will have any effect. The same old second rate programmes plagued with adverts in between. Why would a merger change this?
Chris May, Milton Keynes, England
I would take issue with your correspondent 'Philip' concerning the reasons Rediffusion lost its London weekday contract in 1968. Rediffusion produced a wide range of excellent programmes and was probably the most professionally-run ITV company we have seen. Personal acrimony between its company directors and the Harold Wilson government meant that the latter took the opportunity to allow a 'shotgun wedding' between A-R and ABC to create Thames, and thereby seal the fate of a much-missed broadcaster.
John Watts, UK
When the ITA put the ITV licences up for tender back in 1968 those companies such as Rediffusion who felt they could get by with niche programming were shocked when they were dropped and this served as a lesson to those who were in the business for profit alone. The ITC should now serve the viewers by guaranteeing regional identity using regional companies and more diverse programming.
Unfortunately the damage has already been done as ITV has lost its unique selling point - regionality. I'm sure this merger is not about improving quality, it's just about making money.
Helen C, UK
Well, two companies producing rubbish can be made into one company producing rubbish. That can only be a good thing!
Steve G, UK