'I Have Teeth', Warns UK Airtime Adjudicator

12 December 2003

The new UK airtime sales adjudicator has warned broadcasters and agencies he will have "teeth".

Former Starcom Motive vice-chairman David Connolly -- appointed last month by new communications regulator Ofcom [WAMN: 26-Nov-03] -- will referee negotiations between agencies and the sales unit of television network ITV, which will control over 50% of UK airtime after the merger of dominant shareholders Granada and Carlton Communications.

Speaking at a briefing on the new Contract Rights Renewal mechanism for setting ITV ad rates, he declared that he would be firm but fair. "Does the adjudicator have teeth? I can assure you that he has," he announced. "I fully intend to carry out my duties without bias."

However, he warned agencies that they will not be able to get away with constant complaints about minor details.

"We're not going to entertain any complaints [about negotiations] until everyone's had a right good go at it," he continued. "The adjudicator's office should not form part of your negotiation process. It should not start with a feisty initial meeting with ITV and then your filling out a dispute form and waving it at them as you leave the building."

Connolly was appointed to oversee the CRR system, adopted to ensure ITV does not abuse its market dominance. However, Connolly believes talks between the broadcaster and agencies will be relatively straightforward.

"Both Carlton and Granada know the rules and they know they have to abide by them," he added. "Similarly, the agencies realise with CRR that it provides them with a huge insurance policy and I hope that between the two they will have reasonably good negotiations."

That said, Connolly is expecting a heavy workload. His job was supposed to occupy just three days a week, but he is currently working on a full-time basis and expects to do so "until further notice".

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff