U.K. ad org asks limits on TV sales

LONDON — British advertisers want the Office of Fair Trading to keep a close eye on further consolidation of media sales amid television company mergers and the expected easing of cross-media ownership rules.

Ken Miles, director general of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, said his organization has written to the monopoly watchdog asking for safeguards.

Current rules restrict any single sales house from selling more than 25% of advertising revenue for the ITV independent network. But ITV mergers now under way are bringing pressure to combine sales houses.

For example, Granada Group’s Time Exchange sales operation handles sales for Scottish Television, Grampian Television and Border Television, as well as its parent.

Granada has a hostile bid under way for fellow ITV broadcaster London Weekend Television Holdings, whose own Laser sales house also sells airtime for Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television Holdings. Laser and Time Exchange together would account for an estimated 35% of ITV sales, Miles said.

Current rule backed

While ITV had three-quarters of the commercial television market, Miles’ group wanted the 25% restriction to continue.

Advertisers also were concerned about potential concentration posed bythe prospect of looser cross-media ownership rules after a review now under way, he said.

“We want the (Office of Fair Trading) to set out principles on competition in media sales which would also cover cross-media sales,” Miles said.

Channel 4 has been selling its own airtime for only a year, he said, and needs longer to establish itself without being swamped.

Advertisers also were keen to keep the current structure until competition increases from satellite and cable TV and from a fifth terrestrial channel, Miles said.

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