United News & Media is to buy West- country TV this week, so bolstering the future of its ITV sales house TSMS.

The City expects UN&M to pay between 75m and 90m for the licence.

The key to the deal will be the purchase of 19.9 per cent of HTV from Scottish TV for 74m last month. Westcountry’s advertising sales operation and client list are closely linked to HTV’s – both are sold by TSMS. HTV also pro vides transmission services for Westcountry.

Rival bidder Carlton is under-stood to have lost interest after UN&M secured HTV in TSMS with the acquisition of STV’s shares.

The acquisition will give UN&M three connecting broadcasters, Meridian, HTV and Westcountry. UN&M also owns all of Anglia TV, 14 per cent of Yorkshire Tyne Tees and 29 per cent of Channel 5.

UN&M owns six per cent of total TV viewing and it has a shareholding in another eight per cent of viewing. The new Broadcasting Act limits its ownership or controlling interest to 15 per cent of viewing.

Westcountry is a private company and was planning a flotation. Its main shareholders are Daily Mail & General Trust, Brittany Ferries and South West Water.

Other bidders for Westcountry include GWR, which withdrew its bid, Canadian broadcaster CanWest and HTV itself.