Ofcom rules for longer ad breaks in dramas

Ofcom has announced a one year trial waiver on the limit it sets on ad break lengths within single dramas shown by commercial public service broadcasters.

Robert Lindsay in Channel 4’s Trial of Tony Blair drama
Robert Lindsay in Channel 4’s Trial of Tony Blair drama

Public service broadcasters of one-off dramas, which includes ITV and Channel 4 and Channel 5, can benefit from longer ad breaks within those programmes from next week.

Broadcasters are set to re-invest extra advertising revenue back into producing quality drama programming.

However, last week the House of Lords called for fewer adverts, calling for channels to reduce the maximum length of advertisement breaks per hour to be reduced to seven minutes.

The new legislation dates back to Ofcom’s work on product placement, which reclassified single dramas as “films for television” in order for paid-for-references to be allowed.

However, Ofcom’s Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (COSTA) and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS) currently dictate that broadcasters can only run two ad breaks per hour during films for television, of no more than three minutes 50 seconds each.

The waiver means that while single dramas can still only show adverts once every thirty minutes, the breaks can now be lengthened to as much as six minutes, which is more in line with regular programming.

The one year trial comes into effect on 28 February, the same day product placement goes live on UK television.

UKTV and the Satellite Cable Broadcasters’ Group, the trade association for satellite and cable programme providers, have opposed the changes, arguing that Ofcom should not single out public service broadcasters in its trial waiver.

UKTV added that while it recognises the intention of the waiver is to attempt to continue investment in single dramas, the most straightforward route would be for Ofcom to recognise single dramas “as a genre in their own right”.

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