Ofcom could extend TV commercial breaks as part of broadcast rules review | Advertising

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Ofcom has said it may extend the length and frequency allowed for commercial breaks on UK television as part of a review of broadcasting rules.

The regulator said it would consider changing advertising regulations as the market evolves, including the growing influence of online streaming services.

UK broadcasters face increasing competition from streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ in terms of viewership figures and program commissions.

In a report examining the new license for ITV and Channel 5, Ofcom said the expanded entertainment choice was ‘generally positive’ for audiences but ‘has put pressure on broadcasters, reducing revenue and made it more difficult for them to maintain their current offer”.

Current regulations mean that public broadcasting channels are limited to an average of seven minutes of advertising per hour throughout the day, while private channels are entitled to nine minutes of advertising and a further three minutes of teleshopping.

Commercial breaks must not exceed three minutes and 50 seconds and in programs that last between 21 and 44 minutes there can only be one break.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: ‘We are considering a range of options, but before forming any plans we will listen to different views and consider what viewers are saying.

“We need to strike the right balance between protecting viewers’ interests and maintaining our traditional broadcasters, which includes helping them compete with US streaming platforms.”

The watchdog said it was conducting research into audience opinions on the trade-off between more advertising and more branding in the program.

“Any changes to our approach to commercial references will likely be seen as a benefit to all broadcasters,” he said.

This follows the publication of the government’s white paper on broadcasting, which calls for Ofcom to regulate streaming platforms to protect the public from “harmful material”.

Ofcom said it expected to give more details of potential advertising changes later this summer.

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