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Granada, Carlton see merger plans progress

Gov't extention allows time to smooth union

LONDON — The proposed £2.7 billion ($4.4 billion) merger between struggling British TV titans Granada and Carlton, shareholders in dominant terrestrial commercial channel ITV, has inched a little closer to completion.

On Tuesday the government extended the deadline for the competition inquiry into the union from June 25 to Aug. 26, giving all sides time to come up with ways to make the merger acceptable.

The Competition Commission had earlier suggested Granada and Carlton should sell their advertising sales houses. However, both said they would nix the deal if they were forced to do so.

Advertisers and rival broadcasters are concerned that merging the pair’s ad sales activities — which together control 52% of the U.K. commercial TV ad market — would give them too much power.

“I have decided to give the Competition Commission a two-month extension to ensure all the interested parties have an opportunity to allow time for proper consideration before a decision is made,” said Trade & Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Under new legislation due to become law in July, ownership rules preventing Granada and Carlton from being taken over by a U.S. media group will be scrapped. Several potential purchasers, including a consortium involving Haim Saban’s Saban Capital, are reported to be interested in acquiring part or all of ITV.