Euro spat over TV ad minutage

The issue of broadcast time available for advertisers, currently the subject of debate in the UK, is just as heated a topic of concern across the rest of Europe.

In Germany, a poll by Horizont magazine of advertising agency chiefs and clients fou nd four out of 10 calling for a complete freeing of advertising on ARD and ZDF, the leading publicly-owned TV channels. Advertising time on ARD and ZDF is currently restricted to 20 minutes daily, none of which can be broadcast after 8pm. A further 25 per cent of clients and 37 per cent of agency heads said that the 20 minute limit should stay, but that half of that quota should be allowable after the 8pm deadline.

Rather than asking for more, recent pressure elsewhere has been for less.

The Spanish advertisers’ association (AEA), is calling on the country’s TV channels to respect rules on ad minutage. According to a study by Media Planning the number of ads broadcast grew by 20 per cent in 1997 (MW March 25)

Most recently, in Italy the Government has drafted a law which would limit available advertising opportunities. The draft is designed to bring Italy into line with EU norms.

The Italian Government’s interest in this area is mirrored by that of the nation’s “consultative users committee” (Consiglio consultivo degli utenti) which recently called for sanctions on TV stations which do not respect the rules. The committee’s call came following a ten-day study it conducted into broadcasting habits.

Among suggestions included in the Government’s draft directive are the banning of advertising in documentaries, TV news or children’s programmes of less than 30 minutes in length and the limiting of advertising during films to one break every 45 minutes. Advertising during football matches would be restricted to the half time break, though sports where no natural break exists, such as Grand Prix racing, could be interrupted by advertising.

Possible beneficiaries of any further limits on TV advertising might be the press, which is suffering from a long-term decline in sales. However, reaction among media professionals has generally been hostile to the proposals.

The arguments for and against limiting advertising minutage are familiar. Those in favour see excessively frequent or overlong breaks as undermining a channel’s integrity. Those against tend to argue that it is only through advertising that channels can meet the cost of producing and screening quality programming.

There is truth in both arguments, but ultimately the allocation of advertising minutage is a balancing act between commercial needs and programming objectives. In an increasingly competitive, expanding and fragmenting European TV market, achieving the right balance is becoming a key factor in building channel integrity for long-term commercial success.

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