The Independent Television Commission is to investigate allegations that Granada Media and Carlton Communications, the franchisees that together control Britain's ITV network, have colluded anti-competitively to push up the cost of TV advertising.

A wave of complaints from advertisers and agencies followed an announcement that the two companies are poised to 'virtually' meld all operations not directly linked to advertising sales [WAMN: 19-Aug-02]. “To the extent we can,” said Carlton ceo Gerry Murphy, “we will put the marketing people together with the programme schedulers.”

ISBA (the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers) is unenthused: “Such practices could, conceivably, represent a form of collusion which would hold negative consequences for competition in the airtime sales market and give Carlton and Granada’s sales houses opportunities to manipulate advertising rates.”

ITC chairman Robin Biggam has accordingly written to both companies requiring proof that their respective sales operations have not broken ITC rules by colluding to this end.

• Separately, Carlton and Granada, along with Rupert Murdoch-controlled BSkyB, have launched a protest of their own following news that government is to allow the state-owned BBC to exceed its £200 million ($310.17m; €315.07m) borrowing limit by £350m to fund expansionist activity by its commercial units, BBC Worldwide and BBC Ventures.

The former sells programmes overseas, the latter provides media management and distribution services. Neither, the BBC insists, competes with ITV or any other UK broadcasting service.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic and Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff