ITV merger’s in jeopardy

Commission rejects Carlton, Granada proposals

LONDON — The proposed £2.7 billion ($4.5 billion) merger of Blighty commercial broadcaster ITV’s largest shareholders, Carlton and Granada, is teetering on the edge of failure.

U.K. antitrust watchdog the Competition Commission is understood to have rejected the pair’s proposals to keep the deal together.

Carlton and Granada have been trying to find ways to keep one airtime sales house as part of their merger, which is essential according to Carlton boss Michael Green. But the commission wants them to divest both.

The companies’ first plan was to sell off airtime to a third party that could auction it off, but it is thought the commission considered this unworkable.

The second would see the commercial web offer discounts to advertisers who buy airtime in large volumes. However, as not all advertisers buy airtime in this way, the proposal has been rejected.

Blighty’s advertisers fear that a consolidated ITV could control 50% of commercial TV viewing and 54% of national television ad coin, much higher than the 25%-30% ad share limit the regulator tends to enforce.

The regulator is attempting to establish whether the deal would reduce competition or lead to a price hike for some advertisers.

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