Thomas suggests half-way house for ITV

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The Independent Online
Ward Thomas, chairman of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television, will today add his voice to the mounting calls for a wholesale consolidation of the ownership of ITV, but he will resist Granada Group's claims that a single company should run ITV within a decade.

Gerry Robinson, chairman of Granada, which last week tabled its recommended takeover offer for Yorkshire, said last month that all ITV companies should be controlled by a "single entity". Although Mr Thomas will broadly agree with Mr Robinson, his prospective boss, he will recommend a half-way house at first, with two companies sharing ITV.

In a speech to be given at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Mr Thomas will say: "I believe that further consolidation is called for, perhaps down to two players, and perhaps eventually down to the one player recently advocated by Granada."

Mr Thomas will go on to outline the benefits of continued rationalisation, suggesting that ITV is hampered by conflicting interests and disagreements between disparate parties. "The object will be to create a company which could start to become a significant player in the world," he will say.

Meanwhile, United News & Media, which is vying with Granada and Carlton Communications for control of ITV with last week's pounds 372m bid for HTV Group, has scheduled talks with S4C Digital Networks (SDN) about taking Yorkshire's stake in the company bidding for the remaining digital terrestrial television multiplex.

Malcolm Wall, deputy director of United Broadcasting & Entertainment, said yesterday: "We are having detailed talks with SDN on Thursday." He said United may not buy Yorkshire's stake in SDN outright, but could commit to future funding over a period of time.

Yorkshire was forced to abandon its agreement with SDN after Granada's takeover bid. Granada already has access to digital terrestrial broadcasting through its joint ownership of British Digital Broadcasting, the group which won three digital terrestrial licences last week. Carlton also has a 50 per cent stake in the company.

It is thought Scottish Media Group would be interested in getting involved with SDN. It also emerged yesterday that Scottish Media's pounds 105m purchase of Grampian Television was unlikely to face a public interest test by the Independent Television Commission.

Scottish Media already owns Scottish Television and the Glasgow Herald and Evening Times.

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