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EU allows more primetime TV ads

News, 27 May 2016

BRUSSELS: European primetime TV viewers can expect to be served more TV ads after the European Commission proposed changing EU rules to give broadcasters more flexibility.

As part of its Digital Single Market strategy, the shake-up of the 30-year-old rules are designed to help broadcasters who have been losing viewers to streaming services, such as Netflix, and other on-demand video services.

Advertising on TV is currently capped at 12 minutes per hour, but it is proposed that it should be replaced with a daily limit of 20% of advertising between 7am and 11pm.

However, the UK has an even stronger regulatory limit that allows ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 an average of seven minutes of advertising every hour, with a maximum of 12 minutes in any one hour.

The new rules could mean that broadcasters shift more ads to higher cost spots in popular TV shows, such as Britain's Got Talent or Downton Abbey, and the Telegraph reported that UK officials are already negotiating to protect the current system.

"People will not want to watch programmes if they contain even longer ad breaks," said Pauline Webborn of Mediawatch UK, the pressure group formerly known as the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. "Broadcasters risk alienating and losing their viewers if they take advantage of this," she added.

A spokesman for ITV said: "What is important to us, when it comes to television advertising minutage, is striking the right balance, ensuring that our viewers are not exposed to excessive amounts of advertising and that the quality of their viewing experience is maintained."

On top of the new rules for TV ads, the Commission proposed relaxing current restrictions on programme sponsorship and product placement.

It said product placement should be allowed in all shows except news and children's programmes, but this again is likely to run counter to the strict rules that operate in the UK.

In addition, the Commission confirmed that it wanted on-demand video providers, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, to ensure 20% of their content is devoted to European TV and film.

"The Commission wants TV broadcasters to continue to dedicate at least half of viewing time to European works and will oblige on-demand providers to ensure at least 20% share of European content in their catalogues," the Commission said.

Data sourced from European Commission, Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff