The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising is urging the Independent Television Commission to preserve competition in the TV market by maintaining the status quo. The call follows the watchdog's proposals to allow the merger of national airtime sales companies outside ITV.
But in recognition of the changing media landscape, the IPA says it would be happy if the limit on national airtime revenue was raised to allow smaller channels to band together and compete.
Jim Marshall, the chairman of the IPA's media policy group, said: 'The limit can be raised to 10 per cent of advertising revenue - it won't allow anyone to do it currently if they merged, but it may allow such arrangements to happen in the future.
'We'd like to see Channels 4 and 5 remain separate and see Sky and Flextech as separate sales entities, so it would be very much retaining the status quo.'
Concerns about declining competition in the market are shared by the ISBA's submission. The advertisers' body says it will 'condemn proposals to permit joint selling arrangements' in a market 'already skewed towards broadcasters and away from advertisers'.
Angus McIntosh, the European media controller of Mars, said: 'The regulators need to make sure there is proper competition. If they don't do that, I don't want a fudge in terms of sales arrangements.'
The ITC's proposals to simplify sales arrangements follow on from the reduction of ITV sales houses from three to two.
Other national channels such as Channel 4 and 5 are expected to argue in their ITC submissions that they should be given the option to merge their sales operations to effectively compete with ITV.