Carsberg faults ITV networking proposals

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The Independent Online
SIR BRYAN CARSBERG, the director general of Fair Trading, has strongly indicated that the independent television companies will have to change their proposed arrangements for supplying programmes to the ITV network, to avoid being referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, writes Jason Nisse.

In a consultative paper, entitled Channel 3 Networking Arrangements, the Office of Fair Trading has found 29 possible areas in which the new networking arrangements could be deemed anti-competitive.

The ITV Association agreed with the OFT that the old networking arrangements were anti-competitive, and the OFT is worried that independent producers will be placed at a disadvantage in the new arrangements.

These have been proposed by the ITVA and television's regulator, the Independent Television Commission, and are due to come into force next year.

The problem areas include the fact that independent television producers will not be able to obtain information freely about new programmes being commissioned, and the introduction of new contracts, which would in effect hand over the copyright for programmes to the ITV companies for 15 years.

Interested parties have until 11 September to reply to the OFT's paper, and the OFT has until 4 December to decide whether it wants the networking arrangements changed.

The ITVA can object to the changes, if it feels they are not in the public interest. But the OFT made it clear yesterday that there is not much scope for a challenge under the law.