In a move that underlines a more liberal attitude to license ownership here, north of England’s Yorkshire Television has taken a 19.07% stake in neighboring commercial ITV licensee Tyne Tees Television for £5.1 million (about $10 million). Shares previously were held by the Vaux Group brewery.
It’s also been agreed that YTV’s airtime sales subsid, Media & Airtime Sales Ltd., will take over responsibility for Tyne Tees’ ad sales.
It’s the first time a regional licensee has made a direct investment in another. There have, however, been several joint ventures, most notably the link between Yorkshire and Tyne Tees themselves. Until the beginning of the last franchise round in 1982, they were jointly owned by holding group Trident TV. In the past few years, several ITV companies have joined forces in airtime sales companies.
The move could pave the way for a merger of YTV and Tyne Tees if both groups retain their franchises in the upcoming auction of ITV licenses. The government will permit one company to own two ITV franchises as long the two are not both considered large regional broadcasters. Tyne Tees has been designated a small company, while YTV is considered large. New franchises start in 1993.
The regulating Independendent Television Commission said it okayed the deal once it became clear the move was supported by both companies.
Although previous legislation did not specifically bar investments by one ITV company in another, such a move in the past would have been vetoed by the regulating Independent Broadcasting Authority. However, the so-called “light-touch” ITC (which took over from the IBA at the beginning of the year), has been given a more liberal brief in matters of tv ownership.