EDITORIAL: OFT sales probe leaves ITV in a no-win situation

The controversy over ITV sales practices - currently being looked at by the Office of Fair Trading - emphasises the extent of the no-win situation in which the network finds itself.

The controversy over ITV sales practices - currently being looked

at by the Office of Fair Trading - emphasises the extent of the no-win

situation in which the network finds itself.



Wedged between a rock and a hard place, ITV can’t please everybody.

Until last autumn, the three ITV sales houses, Laser, Carlton and TSMS,

scrapped with each other for advertisers’ TV budgets. This was good news

for agencies and clients, which could drive down rates by playing off

one of the trio against the others, but has had a debilitating effect on

the network, allowing rival media to reap the benefits of internecine

warfare.



Since then, all three have buried the hatchet, recognising the

advantages of fighting the opposition rather than each other. Now the

OFT is suggesting that such a move may be anti-competitive.



You can’t help but feel sympathy for ITV. It’s damned for allowing

itself to be torn apart by in-fighting - and damned when it seeks to

protect its interests. Moreover, it ill-behoves agencies or advertisers

to bleat about ITV’s anti-competitiveness when they have been happy to

exploit previous shortcomings in the system.



The worst that could happen is that the OFT’s interest paves the way for

a more far-reaching look at media trading.



Of course, the industry is rife with speculation and rumours - mostly

born out of the daily cut and thrust of the business. The ITV issue

doesn’t justify opening Pandora’s Box.