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ITC and Ofcom publish update to joint television airtime sales rules consultation

The ITC and Ofcom have published an update to their joint consultation on television airtime sales rules announced on October 7 2003.
The consultation was initiated in light of the Secretary of State’s decision to approve the merger between Carlton and Granada, subject to both parties’ acceptance of a number of undertakings.
The joint consultation document sets out two options which the ITC and Ofcom are considering. One option would be to issue new airtime sales rules for the UK television advertising market; an alternative option would be to rely upon general competition law alone. Under competition law, any practice which could prevent, restrict or distort competition would be carefully examined by the Office of Fair Trading and/or Ofcom.
In the joint consultation document the ITC and Ofcom indicated that, were they to conclude that airtime sales rules were still needed, those new rules would come into force at the end of December 2003 when the new regulatory regime under Ofcom will begin.
Were the regulators to conclude that new rules were not needed and that competition law alone would offer sufficient safeguards, any joint selling of television airtime by broadcasters or further consolidation in the airtime sales market would be subject only to general competition law from the end of December.
Since the announcement of the joint consultation, the ITC and Ofcom have spoken to many of the companies and industry bodies with an interest in the UK television airtime sales market. As the television advertising deal season gets underway, all are seeking clarity as early as possible on the outcome of the joint consultation.
The ITC and Ofcom intend to publish the conclusion of the joint consultation in early December. The mechanism decided upon – whether new rules or a general competition law-based approach – will take effect from the date that conclusion is published.
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