Blow to ISBA as Ofcom approves joint sales

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) has expressed “disappointment” with Ofcom’s decision to axe rules banning the joint selling of airtime.

The move paves the way for Channel 4, BSkyB and Five to sell their airtime jointly, subject to approval from the competition authorities.

An ISBA spokesman says: “We are a bit disappointed about the decision on the joint selling of airtime sales rules. It is a concern of ours that lifting the ban will leave the way open for further consolidation of airtime sales.”

Ofcom launched a consultation on the Independent Television Commission’s airtime sales rules following the decision to allow Carlton and Granada to merge and form one sales house with more than 50 per cent of TV advertising revenue. The rules had prevented media owners with a share of TV advertising revenue greater than five per cent from jointly selling airtime.

Industry insiders say that it is unlikely that Channel 4, BSkyB or Five will immediately make moves to consolidate their sales operations and even if there was any further consolidation, it would be in the form of a combination of two of these three players or smaller TV sales operations.

A Channel 4 spokesman says: “We believe competition law will be an adequate defence against market dominance. However, we have no plans at present to change the basis on which we sell airtime.”

Ofcom has also decided that conditional selling and the withholding of advertising airtime by analogue terrestrial channels will continue to be prohibited.

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