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Ofcom consults on enforcement of television advertising scheduling rules

15 August 2014


The framework that determines the amount of advertising permitted on television is set at a European level by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (2010/13/EU). The Directive provides for a single European television market, and sets out minimum rules on the extent to which television advertising can be scheduled during programmes.

The rules differ depending on the type of programming, and Article 20 of the Directive provides that a children’s programme may be interrupted by advertising only once during each scheduled period of at least 30 minutes, provided that the scheduled duration of the programme is greater than 30 minutes.

The related rules that apply in the United Kingdom are set out in Ofcom’s Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (“COSTA”).

Ofcom is consulting on how Ofcom enforces the rules under COSTA, with a view to achieving increased consistency in enforcement. The consultation is available at here.


Ofcom uses published programme listings, such as EPGs, to determine the duration of a television programme (and therefore how much (if any) advertising is permitted to be shown during each programme). As listings ordinarily show programme start and finish times to the nearest five minutes, a children’s programme must (in practical terms) be scheduled for at least 35 minutes in order to contain a permitted advertising break. 

With Ofcom’s research showing a decline in investment in children's programming in recent years, broadcasters are keen to maximise advertising slots during children’s programming.

As a result, it has been suggested that it may be preferable (and still compliant with the requirements of the Directive) to use transmission data to measure programme length. Transmission data is accurate to the nearest second and would a programme would therefore need to be just one second more than 30 minutes in length to be allowed to contain an internal advertising break.

The consultation also contains proposed revisions to COSTA to reflect policy changes, and to provide increased clarity and certainty into the rules.


Submissions on the issues set out in the consultation are requested by 10 October 2014. Ofcom expects to issue a full statement in early 2015.

This article was written by Vanessa Barnett.

For more information contact Vanessa on +44 (0)20 7203 5228 or vanessa.barnett@crsblaw.com