Ofcom says no to relaxation of PSB advertising rules


Ofcom’s HQ

UK regulator Ofcom has decided not to remove stricter TV advertising rules that apply only to commercially-funded public service broadcasters in the country.

The commercial public service broadcasting (PSB) channels – ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5 – are subject to tighter advertising restrictions than non-PSB commercial channels, such as ITV2, 5USA and Pick. The rules governing the PSBs are collectively known as Ofcom’s Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertisng (COSTA).

As media habits have changed and the media industry has come under greater competitive pressure, the broadcasters have lobbied for changes that would give them greater flexibility in how they sell advertising and sponsorship.

PSB’s are restricted to seven minutes of ad time per hour across the day and eight minutes during peak hours, compared 12 minutes for advertising and teleshopping per hour for other channels, of which a maximum of nine must be advertising.

Ad breaks on PSBs are limited to three mnutes and 50 seconds, compared to no restrictions on non-PSBs.

Ofcom said that even though it accepted that there may be merit in harmonising TV advertising rules by relaxing the additional restrictions on PSBs, it have decided to retain the status quo for the time being.

It said that the potential benefits to audiences, public service broadcasters and the wider market are uncertain and that changes would mean that viewers would be likely to see increased advertising in peak evening hours which contain news.

This in turn, Ofcom said, could lead to a reduction in news minutes, which risks diminishing a particularly important genre of PSB content with high societal value.

Ofcom also said that there was no guarantee that a relaxation would generate higher revenues and that these revenues would be reinvested in programming, something that would in theory make audiences more favourable to a change.

The watchdog said it would consider the impact of changes to TV advertising rules on viewers in the broader context of other changes to the PSB system in the coming years – including the implementation of the Media Bill.


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