ITC sales ruling paves way for co-operation

The Independent Television Commission's revised rules on

advertising sales arrangements could open the way for smaller national

sales houses, such as Flextech and Viacom, to team up with larger

players, but it is unlikely to see a radical shake-up in the TV

landscape in the short term.

The ITC has ruled that Channels 4 and 5 and BSkyB cannot sell airtime

together, but other smaller licensees, which have less than 5 per cent

of national ad revenue, will be able to sell jointly.

GMTV will also be allowed to sell airtime jointly with the ITV sales

houses, although ITV sources say it has not yet been decided whether it

would be beneficial to absorb the breakfast TV package.

One of the changes that follows on from the ruling is that Carlton will

now sell the Irish station RTE to London agencies, bringing in around

pounds 12 million in additional sales into its London fold.

ISBA and the IPA welcomed the ITC's stipulation that ITV stations could

not sell jointly and a ban should remain on selling their London airtime

together. There was also approval of the ITC's re-iteration that "share

for ITV" deals were prohibited.

Bob Wootton, ISBA's director of media services, said: "We are very

pleased that the number of sales points, give or take, will remain. That

protects the advertisers' interests."

Graham Duff, the spokes-man on the future of television for the IPA's

media policy group, said: "Although Granada and Carlton might wish to

see themselves merging into a single sales operation, their continuing

dominance must preclude this from happening for many years to come,

regardless of how closely they are working together elsewhere."

Despite being restricted from teaming up with other national sales

houses, Andy Barnes, Channel 4's sales director, was upbeat about the

rules. "Broadly speaking it's fair. Our key perspective is that ITV will

not be allowed to join together and it is also illegal to collude, and

they can't do share of ITV deals.

"Our concerns are, however, that the ITC has said there would be

periodic reviews - how periodic is periodic and on what basis will that

be made?"

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