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OFT recommends CRR review but stresses protection for advertisers

LONDON - The Office of Fair Trading has recommended that the Competition Commission review ITV's contracts rights renewal mechanism, though it emphasised advertisers and media buyers still need 'some protection' in any replacement system.

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The OFT said that ITV1 is still almost the only provider of very large commercial audiences even though its market position has declined since CRR was introduced in 2003 as a condition for the merger of Carlton and Granada to form a single ITV.

The regulator is, therefore, keen that the Competition Commission thinks of protecting  advertisers and media buyers when it conducts its review of CRR.

Recommending that the commission either leaves CRR as it is or consider whether any alternatives would be effective, the OFT acknowledged ITV's complaints about the "straitjacket" by saying that the system "is not without costs and disadvantages".

If the commission does decide to leave CRR in place, the OFT believes it should consider updating it to take account of other forms of delivering the ITV1 schedule that have arrived since 2003. Such forms include a high definition channel and a potential time shifted, +1 channel.

John Fingleton, chief executive of the OFT, said: "Changes in ITV1's market position and programme delivery since CRR was introduced in 2003 mean it is now time to take another look at it.

"We recommend retaining some protection for advertisers and media buyers so that all parties have an equal playing field in what are challenging economic circumstances."

The OFT came to its final conclusion after industry consultation. Its provisional view in January was that CRR should be relaxed by removing the requirement that ITV1 rolls over the terms of existing contracts.

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