The controversy over ITV sales practices - currently being looked
at by the Office of Fair Trading - emphasises the extent of the no-win
situation in which the network finds itself.
Wedged between a rock and a hard place, ITV can’t please everybody.
Until last autumn, the three ITV sales houses, Laser, Carlton and TSMS,
scrapped with each other for advertisers’ TV budgets. This was good news
for agencies and clients, which could drive down rates by playing off
one of the trio against the others, but has had a debilitating effect on
the network, allowing rival media to reap the benefits of internecine
Since then, all three have buried the hatchet, recognising the
advantages of fighting the opposition rather than each other. Now the
OFT is suggesting that such a move may be anti-competitive.
You can’t help but feel sympathy for ITV. It’s damned for allowing
itself to be torn apart by in-fighting - and damned when it seeks to
protect its interests. Moreover, it ill-behoves agencies or advertisers
to bleat about ITV’s anti-competitiveness when they have been happy to
exploit previous shortcomings in the system.
The worst that could happen is that the OFT’s interest paves the way for
a more far-reaching look at media trading.
Of course, the industry is rife with speculation and rumours - mostly
born out of the daily cut and thrust of the business. The ITV issue
doesn’t justify opening Pandora’s Box.