Boost for ITV as OFT signals willingness to relax CRR

LONDON - The Office of Fair Trading has said it is provisionally recommending the relaxation of the contract rights renewal obligations applying to ITV.

The statement came in a provisional view from the OFT issued today that is subject to a further consultation period closing on February 27.

If the OFT does not change its mind after the consultation it intends to recommend that the Competition Commission relaxes the CRR regime, which was introduced after the merger of Carlton and Granada in 2003 to prevent ITV wielding unfair market power.

The OFT said that the "detrimental effects of the merger on the advertising market appear to have reduced but may not have eroded completely".

John Fingleton, the OFT chief executive, said: "Since the remedy was introduced in 2003, ITV's position has changed and so has the wider market. This means it is now the right time to ask whether the remedy remains proportionate, or could be eased or removed.

"Our provisional view is that we should recommend to the Competition Commission relaxation of the CRR Undertakings, while retaining safeguards for advertisers and media buyers.

"We are keen to hear any new evidence or data during consultation before formally advising the Commission."