The media regulator had been considering whether the UK-specific restrictions on the amount of advertising on TV were fit for purpose, given the growth in multi-channel TV and the take up of digital video recorders.
Currently seven minutes of adverts are allowed per hour on commercial public service broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 and nine minutes an hour are permitted on all other channels, according to Ofcom rules. Were Ofcom to remove these restrictions, it would be likely that the volume of TV advertising would increase.
The framework that determines advertising minutage at a European level is governed by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS), which sets a limit for all channels of 12 minutes of ads per one hour.
Following a consultation, Ofcom has decided not to remove its UK-specific restrictions after concluding this would not be in the interest of viewers because it would increase their exposure to advertising, whilst at the same time reducing the range of quality and content.
Ofcom says an increase in ad volumes may actually lead to a decline in the total amount of television advertising revenue, as prices would be likely to decrease. This would also reduce the amount of funding available for the production of content.
The regulator adds: “The only stakeholders who might be expected to benefit from such a move are advertisers, who would potentially experience lower prices. However, advertisers appear to recognise that the current restrictions have the benefit of funding programming that is attractive to viewers, thereby maintaining the value of television as an advertising medium.”
Separately, Ofcom has decided not to refer the “complex” TV advertising trading market to the Competition Commission.
A six month consultation concluded that the way TV advertising is bought and sold by broadcasting sales houses brings “no clear evidence of harm” to consumers and does not restrict or distort competition between advertisers and broadcasters.