MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Takeover bids only highlight the mess in the TV industry

Call me extra-sensory or what, but I detect the beginnings of a pre- emptive campaign among agencies and advertisers to raise a series of legal and/or regulatory hurdles in the event of a possible bid by Carlton for MAI/United.

Call me extra-sensory or what, but I detect the beginnings of a pre-

emptive campaign among agencies and advertisers to raise a series of

legal and/or regulatory hurdles in the event of a possible bid by

Carlton for MAI/United.



But since nobody, bar Carlton’s boss, Michael Green, and a few others,

even know whether he is going to bid, we are obviously talking about

pre-emptive action of the most, well, pre-emptive and hypothetical kind.



But this much is known. On news of the MAI/United deal, Green comes

rushing back from his hols. Ergo, the speculators say, he’s all wound up

about it and could be, even as we speak, preparing to strike.



Meanwhile, at about the same time in another part of Planet Media

(Belgravia, actually), Virginia Bottomley of the Department of National

Heritage, is wined and lunched by the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising. Pressed on the sanctity of the 25 per cent limit on total

TV sales, Mrs B agrees with the assembled crowd of media buyer big-wigs

that this is generally a desirable state of affairs (ie not to be messed

about with as it would in the event of a Carlton bid). Sadly, though,

this is not her area, but a matter for the Department of Trade and

Industry, which has responsibility for competition policy. So off go

letters and demands for meetings to make this view clear, with the

Incorporated Society of British Advertisers singing from the same hymn

sheet for good measure.



Now it is certainly true that there is a major groundswell against any

Carlton bid for MAI. The big media buyers, not to mention advertisers

like Procter and Gamble and Mars, are very, very nervous indeed. Just

like Harry Enfield in the Hula Hoops ads, they are saying: ‘Oi, Green.

No!’ But are they right to be?



The problem is that the new Broadcasting Bill focuses on share of

audience - and limits that to 15 per cent, but ignores TV revenue. A

Carlton/MAI deal would fall within the audience limit but give it nearly

40 per cent of TV revenue. Changing the bill now is, I’m told, regarded

as a non-starter, hence the move to head off the DTI via the Office of

Fair Trading. But the DTI sees its role as championing British media

companies by allowing them a powerful home base from which to take on

the world. In the DTI’s context, the current 25 per cent ceiling on TV

revenue, although it still stands, might be viewed as an irrelevance.

Not by MAI though, which sees it as a useful defence against Carlton,

and is thus a discreet member of the 25 per cent lobby.



But, on the other hand, is there a sensible long-term future for a

federal ITV? Wouldn’t ITV be more effective (for advertisers as well as,

granted, the shareholders) run by just one or two companies? If that is

the case, and there are few who would dispute that this is the

direction we’re going in, then it might make sense to start now. Either

way, this issue demonstrates we’re still miles off getting a sensible

broadcasting policy.



Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off the inaugural issue of Campaign's monthly print offering than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).