Ofcom admits it is powerless over kids’ programming

Ofcom has admitted it is powerless to prevent ITV from reducing the amount of children’s programming the broadcaster airs on terrestrial channel ITV1. The media regulator was responding to ITV proposals for children’s programmes in 2008.

ITV consulted Ofcom about plans to reduce the amount of children’s programmes shown on ITV1 from about four hours on average per week, plus an hour of children’s films, to two hours per week and an hour of films.

After consultation with Ofcom ITV has since pledged to provide around 2.5 hours per week, with a small reduction in the proposal for children’s films and increased its proposals for the volume of pre-school, factual and drama programmes. The changes reflect a 36% in children’s output and despite pleas from Ofcom it declined to increase the number of hours further.

Ofcom says that although ITV has “taken account” of its opinions, and therefore met its legal obligations. It adds that ITV should not further reduce its output, pending the completion of a public service broadcasting review by the regulator. It further admits: “Ofcom is, however, unable to take any further action.”

The regulator says ITV pointed to the continued underperformance in ratings and revenue from its children’s programmes, problems posed by restrictions on food advertising to children and ITV’s overall revenue decline, as factors making the change necessary.

Ofcom believes the proposals represent a “significant change” in relation to changes over the past three years. ITV1’s delivery of children’s programmes ran at 10 hours a week in 2005, eight in 2006 and four last year.

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