Ofcom is expected to give more details of its review of the TV advertising rules in the next few weeks. It is expected to look at whether the rules which only apply to ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 should go.
The three commercial PSBs are allowed significantly less advertising across the course of the day than other channels – they can have an average of 7 minutes per hour rather than 9 minutes.
Another rule means that half hour programmes can only have one commercial break on PSBs while other channels can have two.
Ofcom will have a lot to look at – it has to balance the interests of viewers, advertisers and the broadcasters. It will also want to ensure commercial public service broadcasting remains viable.
It’s not necessarily a given that a rise in advertising time will generate more revenue – a fall in the price of advertising is possible, potentially benefiting advertisers but not the broadcasters or viewers. That issue will need properly examined.
But a lot of rubbish has been written in some newspapers about how viewers could be subjected to a huge amount of extra advertising. It seems some journalists did not check out how the current rules actually work in practice.
Let’s imagine that ITV is allowed to run an average of 9 minutes per hour of ads, averaged across a 24-hour period. A superficial calculation suggests this would allow up to 48 more minutes of adverts each day.
But one crucial limit will almost certainly continue – no more than 12 minutes of advertising will be allowed in any single “clock hour”.
iTV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 already redistribute ad time around the day to maximise its impact.
So just what difference will viewers notice if ITV gets an extra 48 minutes to play with? Clean Feed has been doing some sums.
Good Morning Britain: around 11 more minutes?
On a typical day, GMB has seven ad breaks of 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Between 6am and 7am there is one break of 3 minutes 30 seconds, normally quite near 7am.
Then in each of the following two hours there are three breaks of 3 minutes 30 seconds – in other words, there is a total of 21 minutes of advertising.
This means that GMB could conceivably have two extra breaks of 1.30 between 7am and 9am plus 8 minutes 30 seconds extra of advertising between 6am and 7am.
Mornings: 90 seconds?
They are already almost “maxed out”. There are typically 12 minutes of ads during Lorraine (9am – 10am).
This Morning would hardly be affected with 10 minutes of ads between 10am and 11am and 12 minutes worth between 11am and 12pm.
So, at most, This Morning could gain an additional break of 1 minute and 30 seconds.
Afternoons: big changes before 4pm?
Here the impact could be much bigger. ITV normally “maxes out” advertising time with 24 minutes of ads in total between 4pm and 6pm during Tipping Point and The Chase.
This means there is less advertising earlier in the afternoon. There could be a noticeable increase between 1pm and 4pm.
Peak: 20 minutes more ads? But mostly during the news?
We looked at peaktime last week. Typically there are just 4 minutes of ads between 6pm and 7pm to allow the next three hours to be “maxed out”.
There are usually no ads after 10pm except in the break before News at Ten which often begins at 10.01pm or so.
Relaxing the rules potentially means far more ads during the early evening news hour and between 10pm and 11pm.
Late-evening: maybe just?
There are normally 10 minutes of ads between 11pm and 12am. Sometimes this means the fourth break is filled by promotions.
So, ITV already runs 12 minutes an hour of ads for a large part of the day and often comes close at other times.
Between 4pm and 12am on a typical weekday, the only real differences would be during the two news hours.
The durations of some programmes might fall slightly if more advertising is allowed.
But, in practice, allowing the PSBs to screen the same volume of advertising as other channels may not be as obvious – or disruptive to the public – as you might have imagined.
PICTURED: ITV/STV/Ofcom logos. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc/STV Group/Ofcom.