ITV wants to merge with C4 and Five

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The Independent Online

ITV, Britain's largest commercial broadcaster, has proposed that it be merged with Channel 4 and Channel Five, ahead of the announcement of what is expected to be a disastrous set of annual results.

The suggestion of a super-broadcaster was immediately scorned yesterday by senior television industry sources at rival companies who accused ITV of trying to create a smoke-screen to disguise its financial predicament. Its executive chairman, Michael Grade, is due to announce ITV's results next Wednesday. The collapse in TV advertising has worsened in recent months and ITV's advertising revenues are thought to be 20 per cent down in the first quarter of 2009.

It was suggested yesterday that a combined commercial broadcaster could rival the BBC in content while allowing large cost savings from merged back-office functions. In reality the idea – submitted to the Government in response to Lord Carter's Digital Britain report – would never be allowed to get off the ground by competition authorities.

One senior source at a rival broadcaster said the leak was "a classic distraction technique". ITV said it was "blue-sky thinking".

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