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Carlton upbeat on digital revolution

SHARES in Carlton, Michael Green's media group, rose by more than 4 per cent yesterday as the company issued an upbeat assessment of the prospects for both terrestrial and digital television, writes Peter Thal Larsen.

Reporting better-than-expected interim results for the six months to 31 March, Mr Green said Carlton was ideally placed to benefit from the introduction of digital television, which he described as "the next, inevitable step in television".

Carlton is a 50 per cent shareholder in British Digital Broadcasting, the digital television group which is planning to launch a 30-channel service in the autumn. The company is also planning to supply new television channels to BDB.

In the half year, Carlton's digital TV operations reported a pre-tax loss of pounds 6.2m, on revenues of pounds 3.2m. Overall, the group's pre-tax profits rose to pounds 165.7m from pounds 158.6m. Turnover was up 3 per cent at pounds 920.6m.

Mr Green was also positive about the prospects for ITV, which he said had managed to maintain advertising revenues in the period despite the launch of Channel 5. He said the company had been investing in programmes, including sport, reflecting its belief that a "well-financed, powerful schedule is essential for our success in the multi-channel world".

Carlton's video and film divisions produced strong performances but profits in the products division halved to pounds 14.1m due to the strong pound and difficulties in the Far East.

Carlton shares closed up 23p at 517p.