Ofcom reveals plans for UK ad scheduling

DetailsEditor | 10 July 2015

UK TV and telecoms regulator Ofcom has published its plans as to how it will enforce its rules on the scheduling of TV advertising.

Ofcom's Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (COSTA) sets rules on the amount and scheduling of TV advertising, with the intention of protecting viewers and ensuring that minimum standards required under European law are followed. European law does not specify the approach which national regulators, like Ofcom, should take to measure 'scheduled duration' when enforcing rules. The number of internal breaks permitted in a programme is determined by a range of factors including the programme's genre and its scheduled duration, a term set out in European legislation but not otherwise defined.

In the UK's case this includes a limit on the number of advertising breaks which may be shown during a programme, depending on its scheduled duration. Ofcom has traditionally used information from published programme listings, such as electronic programme guides (EPGs), from free and pay-TV services, for this purpose.

After a period of consultation, Ofcom has set out in a paper its strategy. It has decided that the continued use of EPG information to measure scheduled duration balances its duties to secure the availability of a wide range of TV services while ensuring that viewers, particularly children, are protected from excessive levels of advertising. Moreover it believes that its new formula will offer greater transparency than the alternative options available and will represent an appropriate basis for assessing compliance with the requirements of European legislation.

Ofcom has also made revisions to the layout and wording of the COSTA rules. These changes are designed to make COSTA clearer and easier to follow.