ISBA expresses scepticism over ITV merger sales house solutions

Representatives from the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) presented their arguments to the Competition Commission yesterday (Tuesday) on the possible remedies put forward by Carlton and Granada to counter concerns that their proposed merger will reduce competition.

The Competition Commission last week delayed its decision on the merger so that it can consult on Carlton and Granada’s two suggested remedies: a requirement that a minimum proportion of ITV’s airtime should be auctioned off each year, separately from the annual deal round, and a mechanism for the rolling forward of customers’ “share discount” agreements with the ITV companies.

But reports have suggested that advertisers, their agencies and other broadcasters are concerned that the Competition Commission’s decision to delay its findings to consider these options indicates that it has ruled out blocking a merger of the two companies and their sales houses.

An ISBA spokesman welcomes the fact that the Commission is looking at all possible remedies, but adds: “Advertisers remain sceptical that the highly technical behavioural remedies tackle the fundamental problem of dominance in the market for airtime that a single ITV would have.”

Channel 4 sales director Andy Barnes says: “I’m certainly not getting the impression that it’s a done deal and the argument for one ITV is acceptable.”

The Commission is now due to make its recommendations at the end of August.

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