Ministers are to reject a suggestion by the Incorporated Society of
British Advertisers that some government advertising be switched from
ITV to the BBC.
Initially, ministers expressed some interest in the idea, which could
have helped finance a pounds 400 million plan by the Chancellor, Gordon
Brown, to issue free television licences to pensioners by cutting the
amount the BBC needs from the licence fee (Campaign, 27 March).
But after studying the plan, ministers say the idea will not be
considered formally until the next review of BBC funding in 2001. Even
then, it may meet a cool response.
’It’s a back runner,’ one senior Government source said. ’It looks to us
like a backdoor for advertisers to get advertising on the BBC. But it
could harm ITV and make government campaigns less effective.’
ISBA leaders now admit the idea may take years to get off the
As the plan is opposed by both the BBC and ITV, ISBA may decide to focus
on its campaign to win more airtime on ITV.
However, ISBA has commissioned outside consultants to study the impact
of shifting government campaigns from ITV to BBC. The consultants, who
are not being named, will investigate whether the move would damage ITV,
cut inflation on commercial television and estimate the possible revenue
for the BBC.
When the study is completed next month, ISBA will consult its members
about whether it should pursue the scheme.
’The issue of pensioners’ licences provided a political opportunity, but
now we are doing some serious number crunching,’ John Hooper, ISBA’s
director-general, said. ’We have to make sure we could move money to the
BBC without seriously damaging ITV, or we would be shooting ourselves in
Hooper said ISBA may adopt a ’softly, softly’ approach rather than press
ministers to act immediately. ’Maybe the time is not right, but we will
keep plugging away. In five or ten years the time might be right.’