Ofcom seeks to reform strict PSB ad rules

Ofcom’s HQ

Telecom and media regulator, Ofcom has been consulting on whether it is to remove some or all of the stricter advertising rules that apply to commercially-funded public service broadcasters (PSBs), which has provisionally come to the conclusion that stricter advertising restrictions on PSB channels are no longer justified or proportionate.

UK broadcasters are currently subject to restrictions on the quantity and scheduling of advertising on their channels. But under rules introduced over 30 years ago, where ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5 – are subject to tighter advertising restrictions than non-PSB commercial channels.

This comes the back off of a call for evidence last year to help it decide whether there needs to be a change in the rules governing the amount of advertising that can e shown on the country’s public service broadcast channels.

The media regulator has set out two proposals for consultation. Firstly to bring PSB advertising rules fully into line with those for non-PSB channels. Secondly, to bring PSB advertising rules into line with those for non-PSB channels, while retaining safeguards that limit the number of internal breaks allowed in programmes. This is our preferred option.

Under both options, all PSB and non-PSB channels would be subject to the same limit of showing no more than an average of 12 minutes of television advertising and teleshopping spots per hour – of which no more than nine minutes may be television advertising. In each case, existing restrictions on the frequency of advertising in films, news and children’s programmes would be kept in place.

Under the second option, the PSB channels would remain subject to stricter rules on the number of internal breaks permitted in programmes. This would mean, for example, that a half-hour programme on a PSB channel would still only be allowed one advertising break, while a half-hour programme on a non-PSB channel would continue to be allowed two breaks.

In a statement Ofcom said: “There have been significant changes in how television is distributed and watched since these rules were first introduced three decades ago. There is already a vast choice of alternatives to linear broadcast television, including subscription video on-demand services and free advertising-supported television channels which are increasingly drawing audiences’ attention.”

“It is our current view that providing PSB channels with the same freedom in advertising minutage and scheduling as other commercial channels would not significantly affect the range of services available to viewers, or materially affect audiences’ perceptions of their quality. We also consider that our other regulatory tools – such as setting licence obligations – are an effective means of maintaining the high levels of quality that audiences expect from PSB services.”

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