UK Regulator Mulls Easing of TV Ad Rules

20 March 2008

LONDON: UK media watchdog Ofcom on Wednesday published proposals to simplify rules concerning the distribution and volume of TV advertising.

Up for discussion are the mandatory intervals between advertising breaks and restrictions on breaks in certain types of programme.

The review of the regulations is in two parts: (1) The distribution of TV commercials; and (2) The cumulative amount of ad time in a given period.

On both counts, the regulator seeks views from interested parties on a range of proposals …

(1) Distribution of TV Advertising

  • Removing the rule requiring a 20 minute interval between advertising breaks within programmes.  Ofcom believes that allowing flexibility for the timing of breaks is likely to be welcomed by viewers as it would allow breaks to be timed to suit the content of programmes.
  • However, the rules limiting the number of advertising breaks within programmes would be maintained pending the Part 2 consultation (see below). Therefore, viewers would not see any addiitonal advertising breaks within programmes. 
  • Removing or relaxing the rules on advertising in particular types of programming.  Restrictions on advertising breaks in documentaries, current affairs and religious programmes (other than religious services) would be removed, and breaks in films would be allowed once every 30 minutes, rather than once every 45 minutes. 
  • Ofcom aims to reach its decision on the rules in time to allow any changes to come into effect as soon as possible and by 1 January 2009 at the latest.
(2) Amount of TV Advertising
  • Ofcom is also considering possible changes to the rules on the amount of TV advertising.  It is not making any firm proposals at this time but would welcome views on how much advertising and teleshopping is allowed and whether there should continue to be stricter rules on the amount of advertising on channels with public service obligations (ITV1, GMTV, Channel 4, Five, and S4C) and - if so - what those rules should be.
  • Ofcom recognises the possible concerns of viewers about the amount and intrusiveness of television advertising and particularly welcomes their views, along with the views of broadcasters and advertisers, on its proposals for the distribution and scheduling of television advertising and on the possible options for changing the rules on the amount of advertising.
  • On the other hand, Ofcom must also take account of the contribution made by advertising revenue to paying for the choice of television services that viewers enjoy.
Ofcom aims to publish proposals later this year, with the aim of allowing any changes to be implemented with effect from 1 January 2010.  It is inviting views on possible options to help inform proposals it plans to publish for consultation in late 2008.

The closing date for responses is 28 May 2008 and the Ofcom consultation document can be downloaded by clicking here.

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff