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Regulator reckons telly advert caps are just peachy

Nine minutes per hour - and staying that way

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Ofcom has taken a long, hard, look at the quantity of advertising on television, and concluded that the existing caps are just fine and nothing needs to be done.

The main UK channels are limited to nine minutes per the hour, with other commercial stations being restricted to seven. But Europe caps advertising at 12 minutes, so there have been calls for the UK to relax its limits and match the rates used on the continent - calls that Ofcom has now rejected.

Ofcom's analysis [pdf, coma inducingly dull] shows that adding an additional three minutes of advertising every hour will lead to less revenue for the TV channels as the rate they can charge will drop. The only winners will be the advertisers, and with less money to fund programmes even they lose in the long run, so the rules will stay in place.

Nice as that sounds it's also becoming increasing moot. When the X Factor is basically an hour-long product placement for the Christmas number one, with hosts tattooing product names onto their arms and/or inventing memorable catch phrases* which can later be used to title records, the official advert breaks provide a welcome relief from the constant inducements to buy stuff.

Now that product placements are permitted, as long as the programme doesn't endorse the product and places a 'P' on screen during the opening credits, the value of the 30-second spots will inevitably decline.

And Ofcom has also been asked (by the Ministry of Fun) if it will suspend any kind of cap for White Space TV stations, which will need all the help they can get to be commercially viable. So overall the hourly cap might force creatives to be a little more inventive, but it isn't really the thing stopping them from pushing their products onto our screens. ®

Bootnote

* "You put it down", the record in question being titled Down For Whatever.

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