Formal warning for Carlton and Granada groups for unreasonable discrimination against BSkyB

24th March 1999

The ITC today (24 March 1999) issued a formal warning to the licensees in the Carlton and Granada groups (Carlton, Central, Westcountry, Granada, Yorkshire, Tyne Tees and LWT) for unreasonable discrimination against BSkyB.

The seven licensees refused to carry a Sky Digital advertisement which included a reference to Premiership football on the grounds that the words "football on Monday nights" constituted a specific appointment to view. However, they had previously broadcast an ONdigital advertisement for the Tyson vs Botha boxing match in January, which constituted a much more specific appointment to view. The licensees had accepted the ONdigital advertisement after it had received clearance from the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) (see Notes to Editors).

The seven licensees argued that their refusal of the Sky Digital advertisement was consistent with ITC policy. This allows broadcasters to refuse commercials from competing broadcasters that promote "particular programmes at particular times on competing services" but not to refuse generic advertisements. This policy has been in existence since 1992. (See ITC News Release 66/92 & Notes to Editors).

However, the ITV licensees had accepted an ONdigital advertisement which contained a clear appointment to view, and the ITC has concluded that BSkyB was unreasonably discriminated against in this respect.

The formal warning to the Granada and Carlton groups stated that further breaches of licence conditions that risked adversely affecting a calm and orderly approach to the introduction of digital television services would be likely to attract a substantial statutory penalty.

Notes to Editors

  1. The ITC Press Release 66/92 (Advertising by Competing Broadcasters) confirmed that licensees were obliged to accept advertising of a generic kind from a competing broadcaster. A refusal to do so would be regarded as unreasonable discrimination. It adds that it would be acceptable for ITC licensees to refuse advertising which promoted particular programmes at particular times on competing services.
  2. The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) act on behalf of a number of broadcasters including ITV, Channels 4 and 5, BSkyB and other cable and satellite channels to provide a central pre-vetting service for advertisements.