The story of Meridian Broadcasting starts back with the establishment of the Broadcasting Act 1990 set up by the then-Conservative Government (under Margaret Thatcher) to mainly privatise British television. As a direct result the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was replaced by the Independent Broadcasting Committee (ITC) and the Radio Authority.
The ITC were instructed in October 1991 by the government, under the new system, to accept new ITV franchise bids with the highest-paid winner broadcasting in their allocated ITV region from January 1993 onwards. This also included quality control and sufficient business plans.
All the ITV regions were up for grabs, the most prestigious being the London area being run by Thames Television and LWT. Many companies competed against each other and bid for more than one ITV franchise.
For the South East of England, there were four strong contenders: The existing TVS, who were adamant to keep broadcasting post 1992, CPV-TV (set up by Sir David Frost and Richard Branson – who also bidded for the East of England and London but got nothing!), Carlton Television (who won the London franchise and succeeded Thames Television, the company also had a stake in Central) and Meridian Broadcasting (a consortium initially set up between Mills & Allen International, SelecTV and Central).
TVS were very close to winning as they had placed a staggering £59 million on their future. However the ITC were not happy with their business plan and harshly rejected their bid. CPV-TV failed on quality ground. As a result Meridian Broadcasting became the ITV franchise for the South East of England with effect from January 1993 – although shows were in production from October 1991 onwards.
The Media Merchants were officially established as a ‘‘limited company’’ on August 6th 1992 – although the name itself was used prior as devisers on Art Attack in 1991 – 1992.