City: TV's top cats

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The Independent Online
THERE was a time, not that long ago, when Michael Green, chairman of Carlton Communications, was considering launching a bid for Granada. Then his share price suffered a setback, Gerry Robinson was appointed to revive the fortunes of Granada and the opportunity passed.

Today Mr Green and Mr Robinson vie with each other for pole position in reshaping independent television in this country. Both believe change is inevitable, with the nine major TV companies likely to shrink to no more than four through mergers and takeovers in the next two to three years. But first they have to persuade the Government to change rules preventing mergers among the main players.

Mr Robinson took a big bet on this happening last week by spending pounds 68m on a 15 per cent stake in LWT at a substantial premium to the stock market price. It's always possible he'll lose the bet but it's much more likely he won't. A powerful and compelling lobby is being mounted in favour of change and it seems hardly possible that it won't eventually win.

It's a nonsense that a foreign player should be allowed to buy LWT but Granada should not. If British media companies are to compete in the world, they need greater critical mass and to iron out the pounds 100m duplicated costs in the present system.

If Mr Robinson has read the future correctly, he's stolen an important march on Mr Green, who would also dearly like to take over LWT, converting his weekday London franchise into a seven-day-a-week operation.

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