Magazine article Marketing

Act Dashes Advertisers' Hopes for Stability

Magazine article Marketing

Act Dashes Advertisers' Hopes for Stability

Article excerpt

The Broadcasting Act means the 90s media landscape faces further upheaval

The media landscape of the 90s will be dominated by two superficially contradictory trends: the segmentation of media opportunities (particularly in TV) and the centralisation of expertise and resources in the hands of large power brokers - be they media independents, full service agencies or clients.

This upheaval has been on the cards since the arrival of satellite TV. It was destined to happen even in spite of the Broadcasting Act 1990: with or without this piece of obtrusive legislation change was on its way.

But the galling effect of the Act is to jeopardise advertisers' hopes of stability in British broadcasting. Hamfisted government policy on the ITV network, a liberated Channel 4 and a hypothetical Channel 5 may lead to unsustainable financial commitments by media owners. That could undermine the need for good and diverse programmes.

At the same time advertisers will be hard put to keep abreast of developments. With market segmentation, reliance on expert agency help will become both crucial and problematic. It will take the smarter, better resourced client to keep close tabs on shifting consumer buying habits.

Below we outline the main developments that will influence advertiser decisions. But first, the implementation of an Act which LWT chief executive Greg Dyke has called a shambles and for which ex-premier Margaret Thatcher has uncharacteristically apologised.

The fun and games is regulated by the Act-spawned Independent Television Commission (ITC) which replaced the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Deregulation was the underlying philosophy of the legislation, meaning the ITC was expected to be a hands-off body. Unfortunately the complexity and confusion of the Broadcasting Act has thrust the ITC centre-stage.

Its first test was the choice of new franchise holders for ITV Channel 3 (C3). The key thrust of the act was to give contracts to the highest bidders (though the ITC had discretion to reject sub-standard business proposals). It also had a last ditch get-out which allowed it to reject bids on the vague grounds of "exceptional circumstances".

It plumped for a compromise path, ignoring exceptional circumstances entirely but weeding out Merseyside Television, TVS, TSW and London Independent Broadcasting at the more substantial first step. …

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