ISBA and IPA fight plans for joint ITV sales house

LONDON - ISBA and the IPA are both using historical evidence from Granada's own management in an attempt to scupper Granada and Carlton's bid to create a single ITV sales house, as the Competition Commission scrutinises the proposed deal.

Submission documents from broadcasters and trade bodies are due in to the Commission this week. As predicted, the main crux of both ISBA's and the IPA's argument is that the proposed merger of Granada and Carlton would create a monopolistic single sales house with an adverse effect on competition in the TV airtime market.

In its submission document the IPA recycles Granada's Competition Commission argument from 2000. At the time, Granada -- which had been caught on the hop when Carlton and United News & Media announced their intended merger -- claimed this would create a dominant player in TV advertising.

The IPA proposes: "If such a conclusion were valid three years ago in terms of Carlton and UNM, then we see no reason why it should not equally apply to the proposed merger of Granada and Carlton, and the consequent elimination of any competition within ITV."

ISBA reiterates the argument that TV advertising is a distinct market, and therefore there is little scope for moving adspend to an alternative medium. The Commission is expected to disclose its report on 25 June, which will then be given to the Secretary of State to approve.

If the communications bill becomes law and Carlton and Granada are able to combine their sales houses, the merged group could be trading by this September, in time for the 2004 TV negotiations. Granada Enterprises' chief executive, Graham Duff, and Carlton Sales' chief executive, Martin Bowley, are both in the running to head a joint operation.

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