By Claire West
A reduction in the time allowed for advertisements on commercial broadcasting channels has been called for by the House of Lords Communications Committee, who report that existing regulation of the market is no longer relevant in the digital age and doesn’t serve the best interests of viewers.
The Committee feels that the Code on Scheduling of Television Advertising should be harmonised to level the playing field between public service and commercial broadcasters when Digital Switchover happens in 2012. It is the Committee’s view that a reduction in the quantity of advertising airtime that broadcasters are allowed to sell would greatly improve the viewer experience and would be fairer to ITV 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, who are limited more than all other commercial channels at the moment.
Public Service Broadcasters (ITV 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5) permitted an average of 7 minutes of advertising per hour, maximum of 8 minutes per hour at peak times
Commercial channels permitted an average of 9 minutes of advertising per hour, maximum of 12 minutes per hour peak at peak times
All channels to be allowed an average of 7 minutes per hour, appropriate peak time maximum to be determined after research from Ofcom
The Committee has looked at specific regulations which affect ITV 1, known as the Contract Rights Renewal undertakings. These undertakings should be removed, say the Committee, on the important condition that they are replaced with binding undertakings from ITV plc. to invest an appropriate proportion of any additional revenues from advertising in creating UK originated programming and training.
The Committee is calling on ITV’s bosses to deliver on the commitments they have made to the Committee — to increase its investment on quality, UK originated programming in return for the removal of CRR and also to invest in training within the industry.
Lord Clement-Jones, who chaired the inquiry, commented:
'It is time to put the television viewers interests first. The Committee feels strongly that changes are needed to the regulation of television advertising and that our recommendations would encourage both public service and commercial broadcasters to provide their viewers with quality original UK television programmes. When ITV gave evidence to the Committee, they told us that this was an important part of their agenda and that they are seeking to produce more original programming, so now it is up to them to prove that they can and will do this.
'We are conscious of the pressures of commercial realities of the industry, and if the television advertising regime is to be changed, the binding undertakings that we recommend would be rigorously upheld.'