Billett accuses ITV and Sky of overrunning ad air-time limits

ITV and Sky One are exceeding the maximum amount of advertising they are legally allowed to show each hour by up to ten per cent, according to a new survey by the Billett Consultancy.

During peak time schedules – 6pm to 11pm – ITV is permitted to show an average of seven and a half minutes of advertising each hour.

But in a report published this week called “Commercial Television Clutter Exposed,” Billetts analyses two weeks of peak-time ITV broadcasts in September 1999. These show that the average ad minutage was eight minutes 17 seconds.

The Billett data shows Sky, which is allowed an average of nine minutes an hour, exceeding the limit with an average of nine minutes 49 seconds.

The figures are strongly disputed by ITV. Marketing director John Hardie says: “It is a very technical area. We would not consciously exceed the limit; it is highly regulated and I do not believe ITV can or would do this.”

On alternative figures compiled by Donovan Data Systems and the British Audience Research Board (BARB) for the same two weeks, the average ITV minutage is seven minutes and 58 seconds – though this is still a contravention of the ITC code. Under this measurement, Sky’s average is ten minutes and 11 seconds.

Billett says its own research is different from BARB’s because it includes freeze-framed final ads, which can add up to three seconds to a break. Also, the seconds are rounded up. The consultancy says it can give no reasons for the difference between its own findings and the higher figure from BARB’s for Sky One. But the consultancy says that viewers are not unhappy with the situation, and regulators should increase advertising minutage.

Billett Consultancy chairman John Billett says: “Given the high level of commercial minutage in peak-time, ITV’s reluctance to assist advertisers by insisting on far lower average levels, is inherently flawed. Increases in non-peak commercial minutage should now be available.”

Media Analysis, page 14

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