IPA's proposed inquiry meets mixed reaction

The IPA is trying to cool the controversy provoked by its suggestion for a single trade body to be the voice of the communications industry by suggesting that an independent commission of inquiry should investigate the idea.

Chris Smith, the former culture secretary ousted in last summer's ministerial reshuffle, has been suggested as a possible candidate to lead the probe.

But a letter to industry bodies from Bruce Haines, the IPA's president, asking for money to fund the initiative is understood to have met with mixed reactions.

Haines' move to set up an inquiry is designed to take the heat off the IPA and deflect recent criticism that it is empire building.

The idea is understood to have drawn a positive response from the Marketing Communications Consultants Association and the Public Relations Consultants Association. However, other bodies, including ISBA and the Institute of Sales Promotion are believed to have given the idea short shrift.

"Such an inquiry wouldn't tell us anything we don't already know,

an industry source said. "But it might have the effect of underwriting the IPA's agenda."

The IPA caused a stir in December when it acknowledged that it was interested in talking with trade organisations about the possibility of forming a "supergroup

to give the industry more clout with the Government and the European Union at a time of growing legislative threats.

One option is for the IPA to give up its Belgravia headquarters, raising up to £4 million, to help fund a new centre near the industry's heartland in Soho or Covent Garden.

Smith, who was not only popular with the industry but learned much about it during his time in office, has been identified as a possible inquiry leader, but no approach has yet been made to him.

At their meeting last month, IPA council members are believed to have backed away from the idea of a single body in favour of a "big tent

in which each trade association would keep its identity under an umbrella organisation.

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