Media Perspective: Don't bet against a helpful Tory stance on ITV regulation

The Tory Party "Jedward" ad, which depicted the Prime Minister and his Chancellor as "Deadwood", didn't have long to leave its mark.

Events in the I'm A Celebrity jungle swiftly overtook The X Factor news when Katie Price, aka Jordan, walked out of the show. In the circumstances, an image of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling pasted on to a pair of large breasts with an "evict the tits" strapline might have had greater impact.

But perhaps the Tories were worried that Brown could draw inspiration from the dual personality of Price/Jordan: walking out of Parliament as gaffe-prone Gordon Brown and striding back sporting a refreshed identity days later. Mind you, he'd probably screw up even this plan by renaming himself "Thunder" or "Lightning" and inadvertently offending the flood victims in Cumbria.

The Tory ads were good news for ITV, though, indicating that its programming is once again dominating talk around the water cooler, at least among those at Tory HQ and its agencies who watch TV all weekend. Fitting, really, as the broadcaster's fortunes now seem inextricably tied to the rising arc of the Tory Party.

Last week, the former Conservative MP and party boss Archie Norman was appointed chairman of ITV. With a new chief executive not expected to be in place until next June, reports suggest that Norman is likely to make a speedy start on reviewing the structure of the broadcaster and lobbying on regulatory issues such as the removal of Contract Rights Renewal.

Immediately there were helpful indications from the Shadow Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that the Tories would favour deregulation in this area, illustrating that it's not just News International that the Conservatives would climb into bed with should they win the next election. Given Norman's background and Cameron's former life as a PR man at Carlton Communications, you'd be mad to bet against the Tories taking a favourable stance towards ITV, and Hunt has already been raising questions such as "why should commercial broadcasters be forced to sell all of their airtime?"

Which, admittedly, is more interest than any Labour politician has shown in the commercial TV market. But is this good for advertisers? Not necessarily. As advertisers have proved this year by lobbying for CRR to remain in place, there are good reasons for some of the regulation surrounding ITV, which has already secured reduced public service commitments from the current government and is showing signs of strength again with December revenues on the rise.

And there are stirrings in some of Norman's comments of a reawakening of the cocky old ITV. In some ways, it's no bad thing yet should serve as a warning of how important it remains for agencies and advertisers to keep on their toes.


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