Although COI bosses do not intend to cut the 50 per cent share of their total adspend which goes on TV, they will "shop around" and consider greater use of satellite, cable and digital channels. The move could compound the growing problems facing ITV.
Carol Fisher, COI's chief executive, has told ITV chiefs they need to be more flexible and imaginative. "What I have said to them is that they cannot only create a relationship when they feel like it. Last year nobody from ITV wanted to talk to clients. They were extremely arrogant and I think they paid a price for that," she said.
"ITV has to earn its work and it needs to be a continuous relationship, not just when it is in trouble."
Fisher said COI was neither in the business of supporting ITV or taking money away from it to make it feel more uncomfortable.
"For some audiences, such as poor pensioners and mothers with young children, mainstream daytime ITV is very effective," she said. "But there is more choice available and we might well see a move away from the media that we have traditionally used."
Fisher said that the more flexibility television companies offered, the more likely the Government was to use them. "The key factors for us are the best value for the taxpayer and our clients and the best reach of the target audiences with the minimum wastage. We will definitely be talking to everybody in TV about what represents the best value for us."