Ofcom has given more details of its review of the rules covering advertising on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
It is seeking views on whether additional rules still need to apply to these three channels.
There are three particular rules which may change:
- The three channels could be allowed an average of nine minutes of advertising per hour across the day rather than seven.
- More breaks could be allowed in shorter programmes – notably a half hour programme might have two breaks rather than one.
- The rule which limits internal breaks to 3 minutes 30 seconds of advertising might go.
Crucially there is no suggestion of relaxing the rule which means there can be no more than 12 minutes of adverts in any “clock hour”.
The clarification from Ofcom about the details of their review is helpful and makes it easier to look at how the viewing experience could change in practice.
In a couple of earlier articles, I noted how ITV already runs 12 minutes an hour of adverts during many of its most popular and lucrative programmes – especially between 4pm and 6pm and between 7pm and the start of News at Ten.
On a typical day, there is at least 10 minutes 30 seconds of advertising in every clock hour except those beginning at 6am, 2pm, 3pm, 6pm, 10pm and 11pm. There is, of course, little or no advertising after midnight.
The only dramatic changes would be in the two “news hours” although a few programme durations may have to be reduced slightly to make the schedule fit together properly.
But one crucial question is whether too much advertising could simply be counterproductive and scare viewers off.
When hour long dramas started to have three internal breaks rather than two around 20 years ago, there was some initial backlash.
Looking at the potential changes, there could be a trade off between longer breaks and more frequent breaks.
ITV could, in theory, schedule two breaks during Emmerdale if the rules were relaxed. But they would be very brave to do this – especially when, in practice, that would not allow them to show any more advertising during that hour.
On the other hand, could the option of running internal breaks of a longer duration prove handy? This can already happen during films to reduce the number of breaks.
At present, there are three breaks of 3.30 during the first hour of This Morning. Would it be less disruptive to extend these breaks to 4 minutes’ duration rather than add in an extra 90 second break?
Ofcom will seek views over the next few months then spell out what changes, if any, it proposes.
But there is one other suggestion from Ofcom which is potentially concerning.
It is also seeking views on whether the rule which prevents ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 running teleshopping before midnight should go. To my mind, this would undoubtedly be a damaging development and should be resisted.
Ultimately though it is becoming increasingly hard to justify actual restrictions on the three channels which do not apply to others. The important thing is to hold them to positive requirements and help make these requirements viable.
PICTURED: ITV/STV/Ofcom logos. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc/STV Group/Ofcom.