Advertisers reject new ITV merger proposal

Industry wants airtime sales biz divested

LONDON –- Blighty’s advertisers are still insisting that ITV shareholders Carlton and Granada separate both their airtime sales houses before the proposed £2.7 billion ($4.5 billion) merger goes ahead.

Carlton and Granada are only prepared to divest one of its sales houses and have put forward a solution to regulator the Competition Commission which would link ad rates more clearly with ITV’s viewing figures. Critics are concerned that this system could be manipulated by a single ITV.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, which represent companies that advertise on TV, and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, which reps the ad agencies, gave evidence to the Commission before the latest proposal from Carlton and Granada and are determined to reinforce their argument.

Jim Marshall, chairman of the IPA’s policy forum, said, “I don’t see any mechanism for getting round divesting the sales houses.”

Advertisers are worried that a consolidated ITV could end up controlling 50% of commercial TV viewing and 54% of national television ad coin, much higher than the 25%-30% ad share limit the regulator tends to enforce.

The Commission was expected to hand its report to trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt June 25, but it may request an extension until October.