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View from City Road: Danger of a media monopoly

The chattering classes who feared the ever-growing clout of Carlton in the new independent television set-up may be having their worries borne out. The ITV network says it was unanimous in its push to get News at Ten brought forward in the schedules to let film and other entertainment blockbusters run uninterrupted in prime advertising time.

That may be so but, as the biggest revenue earner in weektime, Michael Green's firm has an effective primus inter pares position among its peers.

Carlton is also the driving force in ITN, the company that produces News at Ten. True, three other licensees have an equal stake in ITN, but Mr Green led the rescue deal earlier this year and chairs the board. This is not necessarily a conflict of interest, but it could be said that Carlton is both baking its cake and eating it.

Nor does it stop there. Carlton is banging loudly on the door of the Heritage Ministry for the right to take over any of the other licensees from next January.

Should Peter Brooke give the green light, ITV may end up with just three super licensees - including Carlton, of course - running the entire network by 2000.

Competition - from European media groups, from a rejuvenated Channel 4 and from a money-driven BBC - is driving these changes. In many ways, they are the logical sequel of the auction process.

But the guardians at the Independent Television Commission and the Heritage Ministry need to be careful that the country's biggest commercial network is not made into, in effect, a media monopoly.