CIA ‘nears’ deal in 2m Laser row

CIA Medianetwork and ITV sales house Laser are on the verge of settling their airtime dispute.

CIA is expected to make a cash payment to settle the disputed amount owed to Laser’s broadcasters for 1995 and 1996’s airtime deals. The sum is expected to be under 2m.

CIA sources deny that any cheques have been signed and say it is still encouraging Laser to enter arbitration.

The exact terms of the deal were still being hammered out as Marketing Week went to press. Final sticking points are are thought to hinge on CIA and Laser’s trading relationship in 1997. Normally, disputed sums would be renegotiated into the next year, giving a creditor a better deal on rates.

Also hanging in the balance is the reaction of TSMS to CIA settling Laser’s deal with cash. TSMS is thought to be owed similar sums as Laser, but has played a more cautious game. It has not issued invoices to CIA and has not threatened legal action. Sources believe the sales house may yet prefer to negotiate the dispute into its 1997 deal.

“Don’t forget 1997 could be a very tight year,” says one source, “there’s Channel 5 to come.”

If CIA settles its dispute with cash it will set a precedent that could have a knock-on effect for the rest of ITV. For example, if Laser puts the money onto its books for 1995 and 1996 it will upset CIA’s established share deals with the other ITV sales houses for those periods – potentially leading to more disputes.

Last week, Laser wrote to 30 of CIA’s clients threatening both legal action against CIA and to remove its agency recognition from Jan uary 1 (MW November 1) – effectively banning CIA’s clients from regional airtime.

CIA responded by offering to place disputed money for 1995 in an escrow account and have the dispute decided by an independent arbitrator such as the ITC. Laser and CIA decline to comment on the negotiations.

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