Ofcom may allow more TV adverts

Ofcom is planning an overhaul of rules on television advertising and may allow more commercials on ad-supported public service channels.

The gaps between ad breaks, how many can be broadcast per programme and overall advertising minutes are currently subject to stringent regulation. Rules are tighter for ITV, Channel 4, Five, GMTV and S4C than other services.

The regulator yesterday said it wanted to simplify regulation and began a two-part review.

First, it is proposing firm changes on the distribution of adverts. The rule requiring a 20 minute interval between breaks would be dropped and restrictions within particular genres (documentaries, current affairs, religious and films) would be removed or relaxed. The regulator said viewers were likely to welcome the change "as it would allow breaks to be timed to suit the content of programmes".

This stage of the review is out to consultation and Ofcom wants the changes to come into effect at the beginning of next year at the latest.

The second stage is a far-reaching review of rules on the amount of television advertising. Ofcom said it wants to hear viewers' and broadcasters' opinions on how much advertising and teleshopping is allowed and whether the PSB channels should continue to be subject to stricter rules.

"Ofcom recognises the possible concerns of viewers about the amount and intrusiveness of television advertising and particularly welcomes their views, along with the views of broadcasters and advertisers, on its proposals for the distribution and scheduling of television advertising and on the possible options for changing the rules on the amount of advertising," the regulator said in a statement.

"On the other hand, Ofcom must also take account of the contribution made by advertising revenue to paying for the choice of television services that viewers enjoy."

It wants to publish proposals late this year and aims to put changes into place from the beginning of 2010.