Monday 26 February 2018

TV3 claims victory as RTE forced to back down on ad rules

Peter Flanagan

TV3 were claiming victory yesterday after RTE was forced to amend its advertising policies following an investigation by the Competition Authority.

The move came following a complaint by TV3 in relation to the state broadcaster's practice of "share dealing" -- a form of selling advertising space -- whereby RTE demanded that advertisers spend a minimum percentage of their advertising budget with them -- in some cases up to 65pc -- or they would be charged more for buying airtime.

The Competition Authority (CA) said yesterday that "during the course of its investigation, the authority raised concerns that the share deal may infringe part of the Competition Act. RTE engaged with the authority during its investigation and attempted to address [our] concerns. To that end, RTE provided undertakings to the authority regarding its trading scheme of television advertising airtime. The authority is satisfied with the undertakings it has received from RTE in this matter as its concerns have been addressed".

Those undertakings include RTE agreeing to end share dealing from July 1, 2012.

"Under the new trading scheme, discounts given to advertisers will not depend on the share of the advertiser's total television advertising budget committed with RTE. These undertakings have been provided in the context of a broader change of RTE's advertising trading scheme," the CA added.

Last night a war of words broke out between TV3 and RTE over the ruling.

A jubilant TV3 chief executive David McRedmond said his company was now considering whether it would look for damages from RTE.


"We estimate that the operation of unfair share deals may not only have cost TV3 Group directly in excess of €30m over the past five years, but severely and adversely impacted on its employees and its stakeholders," he said.

"We will review the full Enforcement Decision from the CA before deciding whether to pursue compensation.

"We will, though, be contacting the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Department of Communications to determine what measures they will be taking in the short term to clean up this shocking abuse by RTE of its dominant position in the market," he added.

RTE however rejected TV3's claims as "false and misleading", and claimed the station was attempting to "represent a voluntary and agreed position as a forcible outturn".

"No finding of anti-competitive behaviour has been made against RTE," the state broadcaster said.

"The investigation initiated by TV3's complaint has closed on amicable and agreed terms. RTE was happy to agree to change the way it traded [and its] willingness to do this was directly informed by its overall review of its airtime sales method," it concluded.

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