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Carlton group

Overview

This profile considers Carlton, a minor UK-based conglomerate that merged with Granada as ITV plc.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • the group
  • Deutch
  • studies

introduction

Carlton dated from the 1960s. It was a major UK commercial television broadcaster (competing with Murdoch's BSkyB and Granada) and had multimedia and film/tv production interests. Revenues in 2000 were reported as US$3 billion, with pre-tax profits of US$506 million. The group operated in Europe and North America, with around 3,000 employees.

In October 2003 the UK government approved a merger of Carlton and Granada, with the new group being badged as ITV plc.

The group

Carlton began by supplying technical services to film and video program producers and has moved up the production chain, swallowing service providers, film libraries, CD and videocassette manufacturers, broadcasters, book publishers and other businesses as it went. A chronology is here.

It was formally established in 1983, when Michael Green's private company - involved in television production facilities, programming, exhibition contracting and development of specialist audio/video gear - went public.

Carlton expanded through acquisition of television post-production units in the US and UK, such as The Moving Picture Company and Complete Post, at one stage buying and selling off the United Engineering Industries conglomerate that encompassed racing cars and pixellation software. It bought equipment manufacturers (most since sold) such as Abekas Video Systems and film processor Technicolor, along with the Nimbus CD operation and disk/tape plants in the UK, Canada, US and Mexico.

After acquiring an initial stake in ITV licence-holder Central Independent Television - following Australian entrepreneur Robert Holmes a Court's takeover of Lew Grade's ailing ITC and ACC - it absorbed Zenith Productions in 1987, becoming the largest independent UK tv program maker (eg Inspector Morse and Wheel of Fortune).

By the end of the decade Carlton had a global market (and units in the UK, US, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands). Its equipment sold in 47 countries, it was Europe's leading video post-production service, it was the world's largest processor of motion picture film and the largest producer of pre-recorded videocassettes.

In 1991 it established Carlton television after gaining the London Weekday Channel 3 licence, the most lucrative ITV franchise. It launched Carlton Books (absorbing ailing upmarket publisher Andre Deutsch) and bought downmarket but more profitable audio and music group Pickwick. In 1993 it gained a stake in ITN, the commercial broadcast news service, continued to buy film libraries (including the Korda and Rank film libraries), moved to full ownership of Central and sold Zenith Productions to comply with Broadcasting Act requirements.

At that stage the group had 30% of ITV advertising revenue, equivalent to 22% of total UK television advertising and covering 36% of the UK population. Its 1996 purchase of Cinema Media (renamed Carlton Screen Advertising) gave it 80% of all cinema advertising in the UK and Ireland. It swallowed Westcountry Television (increasing aggregate coverage to 39% of the UK population) and producers such as Action Time and Planet 24. Plans to merge with other media groups were rejected. In 2000 it reshuffled its ITV units, buying HTV from Granada.

In 1997 Carlton and established ONdigital (now ITV Digital) with half of the digital terrestrial capacity in the UK, competing with cable services (most substantially owned by US Liberty Media) and Murdoch-controlled BSkyB. In effect there were now two analogue tv broadcasters in England, several cable networks and two digital groups.

The future direction was unclear, with Carlton and Granada servicing heavy debts in markets where significant new investment seemed required. Carlton was reported as wanting to float some of the equity in the disappointing (and increasingly moribund) ITV Digital.

An indication of Carlton holdings towards the end of 2001 is here.

Deutsch

Publisher André Deutsch (1917-2000) was born in Budapest and after education at various schools in Budapest, Vienna, and Zürich went to London in 1939 with the expectation of study at the London School of Economics. The outbreak of war saw him forced to take a job at the Dorchester Hotel before internment as an enemy alien and service during the Blitz as a fire-watcher. He became a sales representative (later sales manager) of publishers Nicholson & Watson, befriending the charismatic George Weidenfeld (then working for the BBC) in publishing Contact. In early 1945 Deutsch established his own publishing company, Allan Wingate, with an initial capital of £3000. The severe postwar publishing environment, with for example rationing of paper, saw him lose control of Wingate in 1951.

Deutsch then formed André Deutsch Ltd, with associate and sometime lover Diana Athill (1918- ) as editor. He sold the serialization rights to Franz von Papen's memoirs for £30,000, one of those instances where a single book kept a new publishing house afloat until it gained recognition among readers. Deutsch's authors included John Updike, Roy Fuller, Brian Moore, Philip Roth, Wolf Mankowitz, George Mikes, Jean Rhys and V S Naipaul. The imprint was also responsible for works by the Sunday Times' Insight team during the golden age of UK investigative journalism.

Deutsch founded the African Universities Press in Lagos during 1962 Nigeria and in the East Africa Publishing House in Nairobi during 1964Kenya. During the 1970s his friendship with Harold Evans, the editor of the investigative journalism in book form.

In 1984 Deutsch sold 50.1% of André Deutsch Ltd to publisher from Tom) Rosenthal (1935- ), former chair of William Heinemann. The two men as joint chairmen and joint managing directors. Carlton gained control after Deutsch's death.

Studies

The major study of Carlton is Raymond Snoddy's irreverent and often perceptive Greenfinger: The Rise of Michael Green and Carlton Communications (London: Faber 1996).

As a grand acquisitor it hoovered up some of the more colourful parts of the content industries. For a glimpse of the ITC film library see Lew 'Raise the Titanic' Grade's memoir Still Dancing (London: Collins 1987) and other works highlighted in the ACC note elsewhere on this site.

Perhaps the best studies of Alexander Korda and London Films are Michael Korda's Charmed Lives (London: Allen Lane 1980) and Charles Drazin's Korda: Britain's Only Movie Mogul (London: Sidgwick & Jackson 2002). For Rank see Roy Armes' A Critical History of the British Cinema (New York: Oxford Uni Press 1978) and Geoffrey Macnab's J Arthur Rank & the British Film Industry (London: Routledge 1993).

There is alas no study of Raymond Rohauer, the piratical silent film buff who reputedly left his collection to his two cats, who presumably lived well off Carlton's £1m. Penelope Houston's lucid Keepers of the Flame: The Film Archives (London: BFI 1994) and Anthony Slide's Nitrate Won't Wait (Jefferson: McFarland 1992) offer insights about commercial film/video libraries.

Asa Briggs' five volume official history The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (London: Oxford Uni Press 1961-86) provides background to the ITV system but predates Carlton's expansion and the Carlton-Granada merger. There is better coverage in Independent Television in Britain (London: Macmillan 1982) by Bernard Sendall, Jeremy Potter & Paul Bonner and in Stuart Hood's Behind the Screens: The Structure of British Television in the Nineties (London: Lawrence & Wishart 1994). For an overview see Andrew Crisell's An Introductory History of British Broadcasting (London: Routledge 2002).

For Andre Deutsch see Diana Athill's superb Stet: A Memoir (London: Granta 2000) and George Weidenfeld's thin Remembering my good friends: an autobiography (1994).

ITN is explored in the valedictory And Finally ... ? The News From ITN (London: Politico's 2005) by Richard Lindley.