Two consultations are under way which could have a major effect on TV advertising.
Ofcom is looking at whether to relax rules on the amount of advertising on the three commercially funded public service channels.
Meanwhile the Competition and Markets Authority is looking at changes to the undertakings given by ITV when Carlton and Granada merged to create ITV in its modern form.
The possible reforms to the Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising is by far the more important issue to the public.
Channel 3, Channel 4 and Channel 5 carry fewer adverts than other channels and can only show teleshopping after midnight. In particular these channels can only have an average of 8 minutes an hour of advertising between 6pm and 11pm.
The others can have 9 – or even 12 if they do without some at other times.
The word “average” is important in this discussion. ITV, for example, usually runs 12 minutes of ads during Coronation Street and other very popular programmes. It balances this out by having fewer adverts at other times – notably during the news.
At weekends in particular, you will often see “trailer breaks” when the whole break has to be filled with promotions to keep within the rules.
Moving to 9 minutes an hour would probably just mean the end of “trailer breaks” and a normal amount of advertising during the national and regional news. There is no particular demand for, say, longer breaks or to have 2 breaks in a half hour programme.
The issue is more about whether it is still appropriate to have rules which only apply to three channels – indeed these restrictions do not apply to their digital offshoots.
As long as two other major channels are commercial-free, any excessive advertising could drive viewers away.
Still the public should take an interest in this issue. It matters to those who care about broadcasting.
Are extra rules still needed? Or can market mechanisms – the risk of intrusive advertising harming ratings – protect the viewers?
The challenges for commercial PSBs are real ones as audiences go elsewhere.
Separately a consultation is under way which should be of interest to the advertising industry.
When ITV plc was created nearly 20 years ago, safeguards were put in place for advertisers to prevent the new ITV abusing its dominant position. They are complex. But essentially they mean advertising in the former Granada-owned and Carlton-owned regions is still sold separately.
The consultation looks at changes proposed by ITV which could make it more straightforward to run the same advert in all regions at the same time. Local advertising would not be affected.
That consultation runs until the end of this month.
Here’s how ITV used its 40 minutes worth of peak advertising airtime on 29th June
- 6pm – 7pm: 4 minutes of advertising.
- 7pm – 8pm: 12 minutes of advertising. 3 breaks of 3.30 plus 1 of 1.30.
- 8pm – 9pm: 12 minutes of advertising. 3 breaks of 3.30 plus 1 of 1.30.
- 9pm – 10pm: 11 minutes of advertising. 3 breaks of 3.30 plus 30 seconds in the break before News at Ten.
- 10pm – 11pm: 1 minute of advertising. This was all in the break before News at Ten which began at 10.01pm.
If ITV were to be allowed an average of 9 minutes an hour in peak, it would have had an extra 5 minutes of ads in either the 6pm hour or the 10pm hour.
If ITV were to be allowed 12 minutes worth of ads in each peak hour, it could have had a further 8 minutes during the 6pm hour.
It could also have run 12 minutes in the 10pm hour. To do this, it might have made the 9pm programme slightly shorter or had fewer promotions.
However the three hours of popular viewing would have been largely unaffected.
One possibility might have been: two additional 3.30 breaks at approximately 6.15pm and 6.55pm and a break of 1.30 rather than 30 between the regional and national news.
PICTURED: ITV/STV/Channel 4/Channel 5/Ofcom logos. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc/STV Group/Channel 4 Television Corporation/Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd/Ofcom.