BSkyB in row with Carlton over adverts

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The Independent Online
A long-simmering advertising war between Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB and ITV companies last night erupted into an unseemly and public row - and all because of a series of television commercials.

The point of contention is an advertising campaign by Carlton Select, Michael Green's cable-only entertainment channel, which has been running on 13 Sky channels for the past week.

According to Carlton's media buyers, BSkyB pulled 20 out of 22 scheduled airings of the advert between Monday afternoon and early evening yesterday, and requested that the campaign be modified to downplay references to the channel's cable-exclusive nature. Carlton Select, which features repeats of such hit programmes as Birds of a Feather, Lovejoy and Soldier, Soldier, is not available to satellite subscribers.

This week's transmissions marked the second time the campaign had run, and the second time BSkyB had complained about the prominence of the "cable- exclusive" tag line that concludes the commercials.

BSkyB is concerned that its direct-to-home satellite subscribers are being told about a channel they cannot currently receive. A Sky spokeswoman denied the ads had been pulled, however. "If we had any objection to the commercials, we would not have let them continue to be aired," she said.

The advert appeared as scheduled yesterday, although BSkyB has continued to press Carlton Select's advert agency to make the changes.

Janet Goldsmith, managing director of Carlton Select, said: "We had to tell people it was available on cable. Otherwise, it would have defeated the purpose of the ad."

Carlton Select insiders suggested last night that BSkyB was concerned about the growing number of cable subscribers in the UK, now approaching 1.5 million, compared with about 3.8 million direct-to-home subscribers.

Ms Goldsmith said Carlton Select would make a formal complaint to the Independent Television Commission, the television watchdog, if BSkyB did not provide a credit for the missed airings or if it pulled the advert altogether.