ISBA warns of EU threat to children’s TV programming

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) is warning the future of commercial children’s television programming could come under threat when the European Union’s “TV Without Frontiers” directive passes through the European Parliament.

The society is preparing submissions ahead of the directive, soon to be known as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, going before a UK culture committee this spring. It fears countries with draconian advertising rules for children could “hijack” a revision of the directive when it comes before MEPs for discussion.

ISBA director of public affairs Ian Twinn says existing rules suffice and that further restrictions could strangle the industry. He warns: “We feel fairly certain there will be countries, such as Sweden, which will use the opportunity to debate in parliament for further restrictions.” Twinn says strong legislation is already in place and trade bodies are looking at new proposals aimed at food advertisers.

“If a Europe-wide ban on advertising to children were introduced, there would be virtually no free-to-air children’s programming.”

Commercial children’s programming is a growth area, with television companies, including ITV and Disney, launching channels. Advertising restrictions could lead to such channels closing or becoming subscription-only, says Twinn.

ISBA is also concerned that proposals to increase the minimum time between ad breaks during films and children’s TV to 35 minutes, from the current 30 minutes, could further undermine funding for children’s programming.

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