Malcolm Wall

The chief executive of United Broadcasting and Entertainment responds to Labour MP Phil Woolas, who said a United/Carlton merger would be bad for the North
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The Independent Online

Too much comment has focused on Carlton/United having southern licences while Granada has a Northern bias. This great North/South debate is a myth, a piece of scare-mongering aimed at political sensitivities.

Too much comment has focused on Carlton/United having southern licences while Granada has a Northern bias. This great North/South debate is a myth, a piece of scare-mongering aimed at political sensitivities.

What is at stake is a multimillion-pound investment in programmes such as Oliver Twist and The Railway Children - output that works well for us at home and overseas. It means money for online services, movie-making potential, a more powerful production arm, digital uptake and export of British programmes.

To all Northern MPs worried about job losses, far from the gloomy prospect of more unemployment, there will be more investment and a bigger all-round pay-off. This is not about geography, it is about finding new talent and ideas and refreshed formats, wherever they reside. It would be creative, cultural and commercial suicide for us to ignore the diversity of UK life and to reflect exclusively "Southern priorities and attitudes". Besides, our top ITV dramas, Where the Heart Is and Peak Practice, rely heavily on the North.

A United/Carlton marriage would balance the pillars of power with Granada, sparking healthy competition. Yes, we are ambitious to catch up with Granada, which makes half the programmes shown on ITV, but we pledge to do this on merit.

As for advertising, there is no real competition between Carlton, United and Granada except in London. Real competition comes in the shape of C 4, C 5 and BSkyB. We do not expect major movements of advertising within ITV.

This is not a cynical attempt to carve up the country, but a straightforward aspiration to build a powerful British television business advantageous to all. Our vision is a more global one, and not parochial.

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