Stuart Smith on Gary Digby and ITV

Say what you like about him, veteran ITV sales director and professional rough diamond Gary Digby will be sorely missed.

One rival put it this way: “Media buyers will now see ITV as an easier place to do their negotiations and will expect to save millions.”

Digby has been closely associated with ITV’s Lazarus-like commercial recovery last year that saw it make about £1.55bn from ad revenue in 2010, an increase of more than 15%.

Fru Hazlitt, the new ITV commercial director who did the booting, evidently sees the root-and-branch restructuring of the sales department as a vital prerequisite to streamlining ITV’s analogue and digital offer. But the media buying community has a different take on things: Kelly Williams (ex-Channel 5) and the rest of the Hazlitti imports are going to be a push-over in comparison with the Digby regime.

I wouldn’t like to be drawn into speculation as to how weak the ITV ratecard will be from now on, but if relief is ever needed in the ITV Alamo, then the cavalry is on its way.

Jeremy Hunt – the newly empowered government media tsar and part-time culture secretary – has signalled that he intends to abolish Contract Rights Renewal, the advertiser-friendly sales corset that squeezes tens of millions of pounds off ITV’s revenue line every year. The only trouble is that some waiting is involved before the relief arrives. Hunt intends to bundle repeal of the hated constraint into the Communications Bill, which may, or may not, become law by the end of next year.

We can only guess what Hunt’s motives are, but some suspect that the CRR gesture may be connected to his role in adjudicating on the Murdochs’ bid for the 61% of BSkyB they do not already own. After all, what could be more even-handed than to wave through both measures? Strictly in the interests of media plurality, you understand.

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