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Granada's gloved hands screen anxiety.

Few television analysts were surprised when, last October, the ITC, U.K.'s TV regulatory body, re-awarded to Granada Television the TV franchise for the North West region. But, surprise could be the extent to which the press, both U.K. and foreign, has gone to describe the results of the license award process.

Indeed, for reasons not yet clear, Granada Television has been benevolently ignored by the trade and general press as far as its wheeling and dealing are concerned.

The main libraries at both the Economist and the Financial Times did not have even one significant story on Granada Television, or on the Granada Group for that matter. On the other hand, Granada's programming has been the darling of such newspapers as the New York Times, for many years. but no reports were published about Granada being sued for damages by Amev International over the sales of a group of insurance companies.

A "radio silence" was kept when Derek Lewis, one of the Granada Group directors and its CEO, quit last July. It was only in November that he was replaced with Gerry Robinson. The only surprise could have been uttered when Granada Television won the TV franchise with the seventh lowest bid of 9 million [pounds] for U.K.'s third largest TV market.

And few headlines were printed when, in December 1991, Granada Television announced a 40 per cent slump in pre-tax profits for the year to September, compared to 1990.

Similarly, the Granada Group posted drastically reduced profits two years in a row. And little was reported on Granada's involvement in the controversial merger between Sky TV and BSB. Granada now has a 12 per cent stake in the resulting B-Sky B organization. The most puzzling of all, however, is its franchise award.

During MIPCOM '91, when Video Age ran a foretelling story on the franchise results - five days ahead of the official ITC announcements - Granada was squarely put among the big losers by several U.K. sources.

But a Granada spokesman was so confident of the positive outcome that he pooh-poohed the news report.

Even though all the bids were sealed, the fact that Granada had been outbid was generally known as early as last July.

Granada's TV license was challenged with a 35 million [pounds] bid by North West Television. The company was formed by producer Phil Redmond, who wanted to break the dominance of Manchester, where Granada is based, by moving the TV base to Liverpool. Redmond is the creator of Channel Four's soap opera, Brookside, and a producer of children's shows. North West's financial plan was put together with Yorkshire Television, Tyne Tees, a publisher and a large investment company.

Reportedly, Granada Television's glove treatment is partly due to the prestigious aura of its chairman, David Plowright, the brother of the actress, Joan Plowright, and brother-in-law of the late Sir Laurence Olivier.

Plowright, who is also a Granada board member, is the largest shareholder among the directors, second only to the group's chairman, Alex Bernstein. A former journalist, Plowright has been with Granada since 1957.

Today, in addition to closing down its Paris office and scaling down its New York presence, Granada is apparently curtailing its sales activities to concentrate on co-productions. It is now said to be the U.K.'s fourth largest TV program exporter, down from third, during the past sales administration of Barrie Heads.

The brick wall around Granada has, at times, been cracked by the fact that Granada, a Socialist supporter, has not yet been too successful in the U.S. with the CBS six-picture co-production deal.

Some former employees, unhappy over Granada's "low salaries" have been cautiously willing to shed some insight into its operations, especially its programming. "You should investigate the claim about the programming they're going to produce," was a typical comment.

The Granada Group is a 750 [pounds] million company with debts of 262.1 million [pounds]. Last year, television generated 289.5 million [pounds], or 20.7 per cent of the group's annual turnover. Television includes ad revenues, program sales, and a studio tour service. The group is one of independent television's most insular companies with no non-U.K. investors.

Granada serves the North West region of about 6.4 million viewers (2.5 million TV households) and it is not generally considered as a generous contributor to the arts, social causes or human endeavors (with the exception of a bike ride for the Heart Foundation, held last year). Granada maintains a rather low profile, accentuated since the departure of its TV managing editor, Barrie Heads, who brought some flamboyance and human touches to the company personality.

It has been speculated that, after January 1994, when the Channel Three franchises can be traded, Granada will be taking over its smaller adjacent franchises, like Border Television (with which Granada bid aggressively, and lost, against Tyne Tees) and Tyne Tees Television.
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Title Annotation:the apparent lack of negative news coverage of the United Kingdom's Grenada Television
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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