Ofcom forced to bring forward children’s TV review

Ofcom has bought forward a major review of children’s TV programming due to increased pressures from declining television adspend, increased online activity and the forthcoming ban on advertising junk food.

The media watchdog says it will look at the state of children’s media in the UK and examine the role of television and the future delivery of content for children and propose potential policy options. A research report is expected in the summer.

The work forms part of Ofcom’s programme on the future of public service broadcasting in the “digital age”, which will begin in early 2008. But Ofcom adds that “a number of factors” indicate children’s programming should be considered as a “special category” in advance.

These factors include: a faster than expected decline in overall children’s TV viewing over the past three years, especially to terrestrial channels; increasing commercial pressures on the provision of public service broadcasting programming and Ofcom’s recent consultation on food advertising to children, which set out restrictions on ads for products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).

An Ofcom spokesman says: “We are experiencing a period of great change in the children’s media landscape. There are now many media competing for children’s attention.”

It says children have 18 dedicated children’s channels on digital platforms and content is also available online and on mobile devices.

Broadcasters including ITV – whose shows include Art Attack (pictured) – have lobbied Ofcom for changes to its children’s public service commitment on its terrestrial channel, partly because of the cost of producing such programming coupled with volatility of advertising revenues, particularly within children’s airtime.

Others say the incoming HFSS regulations, which is likely to affect all programming appealing to under-16s, will have an adverse impact on ad revenues.

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