UK multichannel broadcaster group slams Ofcom ad rules change plan

ofcom rulesThe UK’s Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services (COBA) has slammed regulator Ofcom’s plans to loosen up advertising rules for public service broadcasters, following the closing of a consultation on the plan.

COBA, which represents multichannel broadcasters outside the PSB group, issued a warning, based on a report it commissioned, that PSBs would lose nearly 28 minutes of news per weekday to increased adverts.

The outfit also said that the planned changes would adversely impact the viability of smaller commercial channels.

According to COBA, increasing advertising allowances on ITV and Channel 4 would mean 115 hours of public service news programming could be cut from schedules each year.

The organization said that the plan would lead to an increase in the total amount of advertising on PSBs of up to 48 minutes a day on each channel – amounting to more than eight hundred hours a year of more adverts – which would have a significant impact on commercial revenues across the broadcasting sector, as well as threaten the viability of smaller commercial channels.

“We are vehemently opposed to these proposals from Ofcom. The research published today shows that increased advertising would severely impact the levels of news programming available to viewers, as well as place a strain on the smaller channels who are so vital to the plurality and diversity in our sector,” said COBA director Adam Minns.

“These proposals are ill-thought out and unnecessary, and are not even supported by all public service broadcasters. The result will be to erode the most important aspect of the public service broadcasting system: news Ofcom should be protecting audiences and news programming, not suggesting changes that puts news at risk or harm the viewing experience.”

COBA’s report follows the closing of Ofcom’s consultation on May 31, to which COBA also submitted.

By contrast, the two main ad-funded PSBs – ITV and Channel 4, are broadly in favour of a change in the rules.

Channel 4 welcomed the plan. The pubcaster, which is financed through advertising while being publicly owned, said that the cost of advertising was increasing, and this inflationary pressure was being accentuated by restrictions on advertising time.

C4 said that harmonizing ad mintues would “improve the health of broadcast advertising through increasing supply” and “tackle inflation in TV advertising pricing” while having a “minimal impact on viewers”.

ITV said that the current rules “are acting as an unnecessary barrier, reducing the efficiency of the commercial PSB model to no audience benefit and hampering commercial TV’s efforts to compete with global streamers and other global players”.

It called on Ofcom to implement a limited set of changes, removing the ’40-minute’ rule in peaktime and aligning rules around the frequency and length of advertising breaks between PSBs and non-PSBs.

“We suggest that these changes might be introduced for a trial period, with a review of their impact on PSBs and the wider market after two trading cycles – i.e. two full calendar years of operation. We would urge Ofcom to introduce these changes as soon as possible,” said ITV.

The broadcaster cited a report it commissioned from Frontier Economics, which concluded that the impact of this proposal “is not to change the overall amount of advertising minutage run over the course of a day, but simply to enable a reallocation of ITV’s existing advertising minutage to optimise the number of commercial impacts seen by viewers.”

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