Advertising chaos after ITV merger

Media agencies are facing chaos in their attempts to negotiate with broadcasters as ITV fights to sort out the way it will sell its advertising airtime after the merger.

Agencies are worried there is a lack of detail available on the planned airtime trading mechanism, which has to go before the Independent Television Commission and Ofcom in three weeks. They are also concerned that confusion over the management line-up at the merged ITV sales house will further lead to a problematic negotiation season.

Chris Boothby, the broadcast director at Vizeum UK, said: "There is a hell of a lot of work to be done. Not only do we need clarification of exactly how the Contract Rights Renewal process is going to work, but we still don't know exactly who the sales team leading this at ITV is going to be."

Sources estimate that about 85 per cent of airtime deals are up for renegotiation.

Negotiations can only start after 7 November, making the period busier than normal. Carlton and Granada deliberately negotiated only short-term deals for 2003 in anticipation of a Government decision on an ITV merger.

Sales staff at Carlton and Granada have been told that they cannot trade any 2004 ITV deals until after this date. No ITV deals can be signed off until the Communications Act comes into effect on 29 December.

John Overend, the investment director at PHD, said dealing with ITV was difficult because none of the sales staff knew if they'd have a job at the end of it. "It's an absolute shambles. I couldn't envisage a worse scenario," he said.

Mick Desmond has been made the chief executive of one of three operational divisions within the new company, ITV plc. Desmond will take charge of broadcasting and enterprises, while Clive Jones becomes the chief executive of ITV news group and Simon Shaps will run the content division, Granada Production.

Graham Parrott becomes the commercial director and David Abdoo the company secretary. Henry Staunton, Granada's former finance director, takes the same role on the ITV plc executive board.

- Feature, p22.

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