Carlton Communications Limited (previously Carlton Communications plc) was a British media company. It was founded by Michael Green and listed on the
London Stock Exchangefrom 1983 until 2 February 2004, when it merged with Granada plcto form ITV plc. It is most well-known as the former parent of Carlton TelevisionLimited, but was also involved in several other media and broadcasting businesses.
At the time of its floatation in 1983, Carlton was a television facilities and production company; however, it was through its award of the licence for the
ITV Londonweekday franchise in 1991 that it entered the general public eyes. Carlton later acquired Central Independent Television, Westcountry Television, and the broadcasting side of HTV(though not its entire production facilities).
At the time of its merger with
Granada plc, Carlton broadcast through four ITVfranchises, owned the biggest cinema advertising business in the UK and Ireland ( Carlton Screen Advertising), and was also involved in publishing.
From 1988 to 2001, Carlton was the parent company of
Technicolor. It also owned format distributor and production company Action Time, which has since been amalgamated into Granada International.
Carlton Communications plc, previously a
private limited company by shares, was floated on the LSE in 1983. In its early years, it concentrated mainly on the facilities side of broadcasting. It only acquired its first stake in television through its acquisition of 20% of Central in 1987; that year, it also acquired Zenith Productions, followed by Technicolorin 1988.
Its most major and controversial move was to outbid
Thames Televisionfor the [ITV] licence for London weekdays. Carlton Television had a policy of being a 'publisher-broadcaster', not producing any programmes of its own; even its news was outsourced from London News Network.
In 1994, it acquired the remainder of Central, and in 1996 added
Westcountry Televisionto its portfolio. The acquisition of Central made Carlton one of the largest television producers in the UK. As well as Central, Action Time and Planet 24 were added to Green's empire. Meanwhile, it expanded its non-TV interests by acquiring Rank Screen Advertising, renaming it Carlton Screen Advertising.
In 1997, along with Granada and
British Sky Broadcasting, Carlton bid successfully for the UK national digital terrestrial televisionlicence. Sky was excluded from the eventual company, ONdigital, for competition reasons, and this marked the start of Granada and Carlton working more closely together.
September 1999 saw the on-air rebranding of Central and Westcountry Television to the Carlton brand. This later paved the way for the eventual downgrading of all of ITV's regional identities, though the Central and Westcountry names never fully went away (the news programmes "Central News" and "Westcountry Live" continued), and eventually returned to the air (albeit as ITV1 Central and ITV1 Westcountry) in 2004.
In 2000, Carlton proposed a merger with United News and Media. However, the company was outbid by Granada, who took over only the television interests of UNM (the rest of the company remains in existence).
HTV's broadcast sides and ITV franchise rights (though not the majority of its production facilities) were sold to Carlton for competition reasons, becoming the company's final major acquisition.
Future Conservative Party leader
David Cameronwas for a time Director of Corporate Affairs for Carlton. He was involved in promoting the benefits of rebranding Central and Westcountry, to a potentially sceptical viewership, and in presenting the legacy of the ill-fated ONdigital (later ITV Digital) in as positive a light as possible.
Technicolour was sold in 2001, and ITV Digital (the renamed ONdigital) collapsed in 2002. From here on, Carlton and Granada began to work even more closely, and speculation centred on when - not if - they would merge, and what form the transaction would take.
In late 2003, Carlton and Granada finally agreed to merge. While described as a merger, it was essentially a take-over by Granada - the Granada shareholders would own two thirds of the new company, Charles Allen would remain as Chief Executive, and Michael Green would depart the company he had built. After the merger, the Granada brand would remain as the name of the North West ITV franchise and of the Granada production brand. In contrast, the Carlton franchises dropped the Carlton brand for local programming from the day of the merger (
2 February 2004) with the Carlton network production brand disappearing from 1 November 2004; even the London weekday franchise started trading as ITV1 London (Weekdays), and was operationally (though not legally) merged with London Weekend Televisionas ITV London. The Carlton brand remains only for Carlton Screen Advertising.
* [http://production.investis.com/carltoncomms/ccomm_history1/ History of Carlton Communications]
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