British broadcast and telecoms regulator Ofcom this week announced plans to liberalize the longstanding rules on TV and radio sponsorship.

While acknowledging the importance of editorial independence and commercial transparency, the watchdog has softened the rules governing sponsorship to "the minimum necessary" to give broadcasters greater freedom to operate.

In its newly released draft Broadcasting Code, Ofcom lays out a unified set of rules that with a few exceptions do not distinguish between radio and TV. These aim to offer broadcasters a "simpler" and "clearer" rulebook that reflects the proliferation of digital multi-channel broadcasting.

The draft code also gives greater emphasis to rules protecting viewers under the age of 18. These take into account recent research which revealed the importance attached by adult respondents to the protection of children.

Conversely, Ofcom wants a "less intrusive" regulatory approach to material intended for adult audiences. New guidelines place greater emphasis on the context of a programme when considering matters of alleged harm or offence and will consider issues such as audience expectation and time of broadcast.

Says Tim Suter, Ofcom overseer for content and standards: "A healthy broadcasting system has creative, challenging and provocative programming at its heart. It also respects the desire expressed by parents for tough safeguards to protect children. The code aims to achieve the right balance between the two."

The draft code has been issued for public consultation, open until October 5. A final definitive code will be published at the end of January 2005, taking effect three months later.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff