UK Media Watchdog Hails ITV Ombudsman Scheme

07 June 2004

The appointment of a so-called 'airtime ombudsman' to mediate between the recently merged ITV (which commands more than half the nation's TV advertising market) has been hailed by British media regulator Ofcom as a success.

Former UK vice-chairman of Starcom Motiv David Connolly was hired in November as an independent mediator between the about-to-be merged ITV, advertisers and agencies.

Although operating only on a part-time basis, Connolly is precluded from working elsewhere under the terms of his appointment. He is charged with ensuring the smooth working of the Contract Rights Renewal mechanism -- a procedure imposed on ITV by the Office of Fair Trading to ensure it does not abuse its dominant market position.

Reviewing the first post-merger airtime trading season, Ofcom said the CRR system had so far proved successful. The adjudicator had satisfactorily resolved the limited number of formal complaints made, while the CRR framework had enabled companies to reconcile a number of their differences without adjudcation.

Connolly praised ITV, saying its sales staff had "made a significant effort to familiarise themselves with the undertakings." The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (representing agencies) also conceded that ITV had "generally honoured its undertakings and behaved in a fair and reasonable fashion".

The IPA's panegyric, however, was not unstinting. It pointed out that ITV had struggled with audience measurement calculations and reported inaccurate data to agencies.

By and large, it seems, Connolly and the CRR emerged with credit from their first three months in the alligator pit. But as Ofcom ceo Stephen Carter points out: "The acid test will be [the system's] role and value in a full and normal trading year."

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff