Media Perspective: Clearly, the issue of transparency runs through all media

They're a sensitive mob in outdoor. But a mob nonetheless. Not in an ugly, football hooligan-type way, obviously, but because they pull together when they feel besieged.

Take the response to Alasdair Reid's piece in Campaign last week, which had the temerity to suggest that the outdoor industry may face one or two issues, not least in relation to transparency. Within minutes of publication, representatives from outdoor contractors and specialists were manning the ramparts and pouring hot oil all over Campaign's most sensitive parts.

It had been grossly unfair of us to again point to these problems in outdoor when rival media, such as television and press, are also mired in opaque practices. Which is a bit like Cristiano Ronaldo arguing that he's not the only footballer in the world to leap off the high board when a tackle flies in - still, the outdoor army may just have a point.

Transparency remains a massive issue across the media industry and seems more central than ever as the recession continues to bite - agencies make ridiculous promises in pitches and media owners attempt to claw revenue from wherever they can find it.

In recent days, the gun was fired on the autumn television trading season and, while Berry Brothers is full three times a week for wine tastings with Sky Media and its guests, and ITV rolls out its big guns with the assumption that Contract Rights Renewal will remain in some shape or form, the majority of agencies continue to trade in pretty much the same way as they have done for decades.

Central to this is the old practice of agency deals, which critics say don't benefit all clients fairly and equally and, importantly, work against change and evolution by maintaining the status quo and strong negotiating position of the more established media owners. Worryingly, perhaps, agency deals are also becoming standard practice in the press market, which is no problem as long as clients always know the levels of rebate and terms of these deals. But there is huge potential for this not to be the case.

So it seems in advertisers' interest that Ofcom calls a full review of the television trading market, especially a look at whether the agency deal should be scrapped. Nonsense, some say - this would be too complex and would take too long. So what? Some action is better than nothing at all, even if it does take a couple of years.

But the chances of this happening seem slim because Ofcom has enough on its plate, what with Rupert Murdoch's generals at Sky chasing its chief executive, Ed Richards, around with a red-hot poker and the shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, promising cuts to quangos. Which seems a shame as the television trading world would benefit from a light being shone on its activities.


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