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CN339 posts since 4 Jan 2003
The Belfast Telegraph, our main local newspaper here today put out an article about how UTV's position within the network may change in future years. It's available here.

Quote:
There is an old adage that when elephants fight, the grass suffers. The same happens when they mate.

The two giant conglomerations of ITV, Carlton and Granada, are to be allowed to merge, bringing about the effective demolition of one of the foundations upon which ITV was built.

Commercial television began in the middle of the last century in Britain and was constructed as a set of interlocking but independent companies.

UTV was one of them and is one of the few to have survived the half century of development and change.

The federal structure of the ITV network is to disappear, to be replaced by one big company worth in excess of 4bn, called ITV Plc.


Remarkably, it has survived this latest convulsion as an independent company but may not do so for long.

Only two other companies will be outside ITV Plc, Scottish and Grampian (Channel TV in the Channel Islands is also outside, but it is very small).

Industry pundits are saying that their independent existence is doomed. As soon as ITV has gathered itself, it will gobble up the remaining bits, including UTV.


What will it mean for the devotee of Coronation Street and other UTV programmes? In the short run, probably remarkably little. Although ITV will now encompass 12 of the 15 regions of the UK, the licenses to broadcast television remain separate.

This means that each region must adhere to the number of hours of local programming stipulated in the licenses and other provisions designed to protect the regional and public service character of the programmes.

At present these licenses are issued and supervised by the Independent Television Commission which, at the end of the year, will be subsumed by a new over-arching telecoms regulator, Ofcom. So while the stuff on the screens will continue to look familiar, in the background everything is changing.


In the long run this process is bound to have a visible impact, and not just in Northern Ireland. Some industry analysts believe that the changes will in the end affect the broadcasting ecology of the whole island of Ireland.


Who owns UTV? The important shareholder is a Canadian multinational broadcaster called CanWest, which owns about 30%, sufficient to allow effective control where the rest of the shareholding is broken up. CanWest also owns 45% of TV3 in the Republic.

TV3 is the republic's only fully commercial television station, and it finds itself in competition with UTV, which had been steadily extending its reach over the whole of Ireland.

Now factor in the fact that Granada, now ITV, also owns 45% of TV3. ITV is the provider of most of UTV's programmes and is also selling programmes to TV3. Something will ultimately have to give in this situation.


CanWest probably bought into TV3 and into UTV with the idea of forming a bridgehead to expand into British Isles television. The creation of ITV Plc has scuppered that ambition for good.

Given that TV3 is losing money (unlike UTV which is very profitable) and that CanWest itself is in debt, selling the shareholdings in both these companies will begin to look like an attractive option for the Canadians. And the most likely buyer at this juncture looks like ITV.

Arise ITV Ireland, or something like it, British owned, of course, and from that point the two companies would cease to be in head-on commercial competition.


What would happen to UTV? The company has been expanding in what market-watchers jargon is called non-core activities, like radio, telephony and internet. It is looking like the wise old birds in UTV saw the writing on the wall long ago and formed a defensive strategy for survival.

ITV might only want the TV part of UTV. The rest of the activities might continue independently, called something like Ulster Communication. They could even encompass a new television station based in the republic aimed at sectors of the audience not yet served in that area.

And if television over broadband internet becomes a reality as many predict, arise a new-born Ulster Television! Funny old business, television.



Interesting article, quite a few things worth thinking about, ITV1 Ireland being a possibility, TV3 and UTV becomming one perhaps? A political hotbed if ever there was one but it could potentially stop the duplication of resources if the same company, ITV plc ends up running two similar services in roughly the same territories. Also, where is the ITC likely to stand on this? So many questions, so few answers! Some food for thought anyway!
A former member
Depends if we get a united Ireland I think, which I think will eventually happen...
Colm (previously Col) 3,488 posts since 6 Jan 2003
Chris:
"The Belfast Telegraph, our main local newspaper here today put out an article about how UTV's position within the network may change in future years."

...

"Interesting article, quite a few things worth thinking about, ITV1 Ireland being a possibility, TV3 and UTV becomming one perhaps?"

I agree, an interesting article, and refreshing to see local journalists taking an interest in how the changes in ITV's federal structure can impact on UTV viewers, who by and large would appear to be disaffected by the Carlton/Granada merger.

The point about how UTV's diversification could also cause an internal split (UTV Internet and the radio holdings in ROI would form their own company if CanWest sell off the station) is a good point and has a strong potency - although would CanWest want to sell off one of its profitable ventures rather than cash cows?

"A political hotbed if ever there was one but it could potentially stop the duplication of resources if the same company, ITV plc ends up running two similar services in roughly the same territories."

More so than it does already - it seems more than likely that if/when UTV are absorbed into ITV plc, UTV and TV3 could be merged and an all-Ireland ITV service could be on the cards, and given the territory and the urgency to maintain a strong local character, hopefully the changes would be purely cosmetic...
rdd3,370 posts since 21 Jun 2001
Remember though that parts of TV3 and UTV cannot be merged. Both have different contract requirements with the BCI and ITC respectively. TV3's news requirement, in particular, cannot really be matched with UTV (in particular, TV3 has to have a national and international news service of its own, while UTV only has to provide news for Northern Ireland.)

Also, while TV3 will now have access to Carlton programmes, SMG programmes, film rights, sports rights, and independent productions still have to be negotiated seperately. This also precludes a full merger (unless ITV changes its rights deals to negotiate for both UK and Ireland).
A former member
rdd posted:
Remember though that parts of TV3 and UTV cannot be merged. Both have different contract requirements with the BCI and ITC respectively. TV3's news requirement, in particular, cannot really be matched with UTV (in particular, TV3 has to have a national and international news service of its own, while UTV only has to provide news for Northern Ireland.)

Also, while TV3 will now have access to Carlton programmes, SMG programmes, film rights, sports rights, and independent productions still have to be negotiated seperately. This also precludes a full merger (unless ITV changes its rights deals to negotiate for both UK and Ireland).


But UTV and TV3 could run a merged schedule with local simulataneous opt out points and satisfy the terms of their respective licences quite easily.

Bet its only a matter of time before we see ITV1 Ireland.........
A former member
I think that the one thing that is guaranteed is that the television channel that NI viewers will see on, say, analogue terrestrial channel 3, or digital satellite channel 103 (etc) will eventually become "ITV1 Northern Ireland" (or something), rather than "UTV", and will have something to do with "ITV plc".

I'm adamant that the above is inevitable. But what is much less certain is exactly what aspects of "UTV" (e.g. "non-core" stuff, Canadian shareholders, etc) will end up being in "ITV1 Northern Ireland".