LONDON: Communications regulator Ofcom has bowed to determined campaigning by ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster, to agree a 37.5% reduction in children's programming on its flagship ITV1 channel - from eight hours weekly to five.
Although neither organisation has admitted a connection between the reduction and Ofcom's impending ban on junk food advertising to kids, many industry observers scent a tradeoff.
ITV has for long sought to abandon - or at least curtail - its child-targeted afternoon broadcasts on ITV1, arguing that the segment is already well served by dedicated children's' channels [WARC News: 27-Sep-06].
Ofcom's decision was announced whilst still in process of reviewing how successfully - or otherwise - BBC and commercial channels have collectively and individually fulfilled their public service broadcasting obligations.
Claims ITV director of television Simon Shaps: "Under our revised proposals we're on course to broadcast over five hundred hours of children's output on ITV1 and GMTV in 2007. This is a substantially greater commitment than any of our main competitors. Indeed, it as much as the total commitment across BBC One and BBC2 combined."
Continued Shaps: "On top of this, around 90% of UK children already have access to ITV's CITV channel, which we make available free-to-air to every digital home in Britain. All told, we believe that this represents a substantial commitment."
The deal clears ITV's decks to launch a counter-attack on Channel 4's ratings-grabbing fiesta (siesta?) of mid-afternoon TV trivia.
LONDON - Ofcom also announced it will intervene in the ongoing scandal surrounding the misuse of premium-rate phonelines in TV call-in shows such as quizzes and contests.
The investigation will be headed by Richard Ayre (pictured left), a non-executive member of Ofcom's content board. He will seek extensive input from the near-toothless premium rate phone services overseer ICSTIS.
His remit is to examine consumer protection issues, along with audience attitudes to the use of premium rate services; the benefits and risks to broadcasters of the use of premium rate services, the responsibil-ities of those involved and the effectiveness of compliance procedures.
Ayres is a former deputy chief executive of BBC News and a senior BBC journalist of 27 years experience He is scheduled to report by early summer.
Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff