Ofcom is expected to say soon whether it will run a full consultation on changes to the TV advertising rules.
It sought views over the summer on whether there was a case to change the extra rules covering ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
The three PSBs have less advertising in total than other commercial channels and rules on the frequency of breaks are tighter.
But if you’ve been watching I’m a Celebrity, you’ll be aware of the kind of archaic compromises ITV has to make to stay within the rules.
ITV is allowed 40 minutes of advertising between 6pm and 11pm with no more than 12 minutes in each hour.
On a typical weeknight, there are 4 minutes of ads before 7pm with the remaining 36 minutes shared out between 7pm and the start of News at Ten.
However the channel naturally wants to make the best use of the limited advertising time available.
I’m a Celebrity runs until around 10.30pm some evenings. So advertising is taken away from less lucrative slots so it can be slotted into the ratings juggernaut.
For instance, on Monday and Tuesday last week, there were no ad breaks between the start of the regional news at 6pm and Emmerdale at 7.30pm.
But if you imagine there was some benefit to viewers in this, think again.
Instead, the network news followed its usual format but the ad breaks were replaced by what I call the Trailer Breaks of Doom.
These are the full-length breaks designed for commercials which are filled entirely by promotions because of the rules on the volume of advertising on PSBs.
It is important to look properly at whether there are genuine economic benefits to advertisers and broadcasters from allowing more advertising. It is possible they may conclude that the same amount of advertising spending could simply be spread more thinly.
It should also be clear that broadcasters do not need to use their whole allocation if they conclude that “less is more” – could rationed advertising command a premium or boost ratings?
But, as I’ve argued before, it is hard to claim that viewers will lose out if ITV and others have a full 12 minutes of ads all through the most popular viewing hours.
Promo breaks are, if anything, more frustrating for viewers but do not pay for the content.
PICTURED: Ofcom/ITV/STV/Channel 4/Channel 5 logos. COPYRIGHT: Ofcom/ITV plc/STV Group/Channel 4 Television Corporation/Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd.
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