Yeah Granada were fantastic back in the day didn’t they pay peanuts in the 1991 franchise round as they passed the quality threshold effortlessly?
The fact that they passed the quality threshold isn't relevant. It was pretty much a given that incumbent ITV companies would pass the programme and technical quality requirements; none of them had a record anywhere near bad enough to be in any danger from that perspective, the only ones that caused the ITC issues were those with very high bids relative to revenue (TVS, TSW, HTV, YTV and Tyne Tees), which either failed, or were close to failing on business plan grounds.
They got through the franchise auction because Phil Redmond made some rookie mistakes in his bid, promising to put out many hours per week of regional programming, made on a shoestring budget with sub-Pro equipment.
If he'd just been a bit more boring and focused on getting the basics right, he would have passed the quality threshold (which wasn't all that high, see Carlton) and Granada would have followed Thames into the bin. After all there were two established ITV companies providing backing and expertise to the bid. I dare say if he'd just photocopied the text of the Yorkshire bid and written "North West" at the top in crayon he'd probably have won.
In reality Granada's bid was somewhat unintelligent. If they had correctly surmised that Redmond had blown his chance, they should have bid £2000. On the other hand, if they saw Redmond as a threat, the £9m bid made no sense at all.
The rules were quite simple... If you passed the quality thresholds in terms of programme, business and technical standards, and you bid more than the other guy you won. Thames proved that the "special circumstances" idea was a red herring. Granada were no more "special" than any of the other four big companies (the only region where I've heard any kind of convincing argument for using special circumstances was Northern Ireland because of political sensitivity and the need for a smooth continuation of service, and even here I doubt it would have been enacted) . This idea that you won or lost 1991 because you were able to flutter your eyelashes at George Russell, and get through because you were "better" than the competition is complete nonsense; that wasn't the way the Act was set up. In 1980, certainly.