LONDON: Public service television broadcasters in the UK could soon be freed from the obligation of selling their inventory at any price in order to fill the amount of time set aside for advertising on their channels.

Under the current rules, ITV, Channel 4 and Five must accept offers if they have failed to secure enough buyers to cover the period allotted for commercial breaks, forcing prices downwards.

In announcing a new consultation regarding TV advertising, Ofcom, the communications industry regulator, suggested this structure may no longer be "appropriate".

"We will consider whether the requirement that PSB broadcasters sell all their advertising minutage is still appropriate and on whether advertising minutage rules for PSBs and other channels should be harmonised," it said in a statement.

Any revision to the existing framework would come into force in early 2011, and the move was welcomed by ITV, which said Ofcom had recognised the "substantial changes in the TV sector."

Dawn Airey, the chief executive of Five, has previously argued that there is "simply too much advertising minutage on television."

"Reducing supply would put a floor under the price, which would help sustain our ability to continue to fund high-quality content," she continued.

Other matters featuring in the consultation will include allowing PSBs more flexibility regarding when they show ads, rather than forcing them to run an average of seven minutes of spots per hour, as is the case at present.

Ed Richards, Ofcom's chief executive, said "in the last few years the TV sector has moved on with substantial increases in the take-up of digital services and in the number of available channels, and consolidation in the advertising buying sector."

"If regulations have no public interest then they should be removed; that is what we will be considering here," he added.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff