Ofcom has published a consultation document regarding various approaches to the enforcement of scheduling of television advertising.
Both Ofcom’s own Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (COSTA) and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive place restrictions on the insertion of internal advertising breaks within programmes, based on factors including the “scheduled duration” of the programmes in question, although neither define this term.
The consultation primarily focuses on a choice between four different methods of calculating a programme’s “scheduled duration”, as detailed below.
Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) Approach
Under this method, a programme’s scheduled duration is based on the EPG listing – i.e. from the scheduled start time of that programme until the scheduled start time of the next. This means that both the programme’s editorial content and any material broadcast during the breaks (e.g. advertising, programme trails etc) are included in the scheduled duration. This is the traditional method for calculating a programme’s scheduled duration.
Broadcasters’ Transmission (TX) Logs Approach
With this approach, a programme’s scheduled duration is calculated on information obtained from the TX logs, which provide detailed records of the start and end times of each programme, along with the timings of internal breaks. This in turn provides three possible ways to calculate the scheduled duration:
a) the programme slot – i.e. from the start of one programme until the start of the next, including all programme, advertising and promotional material transmitted in-between;
b) editorial content plus internal breaks – i.e. from the start to the end of the programme including editorial content and all material shown during internal breaks; or
c) editorial content alone – i.e. from the start of the programme to the end of the programme excluding advertising and promotional material broadcast in internal breaks.
The consultation asks for respondents to indicate which of these four methods of calculation they would prefer, based on the three criteria of consumer interests, practicality of enforcement and regulatory certainly. Alternatively, respondents can suggest a preferred method of their own.
The consultation also proposes a number of amendments to COSTA which are designed to help broadcasters apply the rules consistently. These relate to the definitions of specific terms such as “teleshopping” and “clock hour” as well as amendments to the layout of COSTA itself, so that it more closely reflects the structure of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
The consultation is open until 10 October, and can be accessed here. Following the consultation, Ofcom expect to issue a statement in early 2015.