Channels 4 and 5 rubbish ITV's plea to get rid of CRR

It was a nice t

ry by ITV chiefs Archie Norman and Adam Crozier to claim that the CRR restrictions, which they no doubt regard as cruel and unusual punishment, have forced ITV to engage in the “ratings rat race” and prevented it from broadcasting much higher quality content.

They both managed to maintain a straight face while giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee the other day, leading many observers one imagines to fondly dream of endless operas and poetry recitals on good old ITV 3.

Now as expected, Channel Four and Five have given a firm rebuttal to the ITV claims, pointing out that the broadcaster had been aiming for schedules with more peaks in them before CRR was introduced in 2003.

Contract Rights Renewal is aimed at protecting advertisers and other broadcasters from ITV’s dominant position. (Even now in this multi-channel age, it still has 48 per cent of the ad market).

Under the terms of CRR advertisers pay ITV less if the audience falls, as opposed to the previous free-for-all where ITV gained from falling audiences because advertisers still had to compete to pay to get the mass audiences available from the popular shows.

As Channel 4’s director of strategy Gill Pritchard said, “if ITV is allowed to put up prices even when its share has declined, there would be less spend for other broadcasters and therefore a reduction in public service output from other broadcasters.”

Channel Five sales director Kelly Williams provided the most interesting suggestion, namely that CRR should be reformed with a “Son of CRR” created, as one of the effects of the system has been to bind the industry to share deals, always the bane of the TV market.

Nevertheless this was just a skirmish, not a major battle. Don’t bet against Norman and Crozier continuing to lobby furiously against CRR.

Maybe they’ll offer to bring back Melvyn Bragg’s culture-soaked South Bank Show to demonstrate how sincere they are.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.