…as TV chiefs debate ban

Senior ITV executives are divided over the merits of spirit advertising, sources confirm. The matter, which will be raised at the next ITV Council meeting on May 2, has now become a board-level issue with television companies at odds over plans to overturn the 45-year-old voluntary TV advertising ban on spirits.

ITV sales sources suggest that Granada, Scottish Television and Grampian have given verbal assurances to United Distillers that they would carry advertising for UD’s Bell’s whisky if asked.

Channel 4 is understood to have agreed in principle, the source adds.

As the ban is a voluntary one, broadcasters would be unable to refuse to air the ads if approached. Discussions between UD and broadcasters remain informal.

The TV companies are reluctant to comment. But Carlton UK Sales head Martin Bowley urges caution.

“We believe there should be wider debate involving all distillers about advertising on TV. Hiding behind the legal argument [that broadcasters cannot refuse to broadcast this advertising] is no defence,” he says.