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