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Split-screen advertising - compliance with the Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (‘COSTA’)

25 September 2014

The Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (‘COSTA’) sets out the rules which television broadcasters licensed by Ofcom must comply with when carrying advertising.

According to the COSTA rules, broadcasters must limit the number of minutes of advertising which may be transmitted during a particular period (Rule 4), keep advertising distinct from programming (Rule 11) and ensure that advertising does not prejudice the integrity of programming (Rule 12).

Split-screen advertising occurs when both editorial content and advertising appear on screen at the same time. Ofcom has published a note for broadcasters on the application of the COSTA rules to split-screen advertising, specifically in relation to the placement of such advertising.

The note reminds broadcasters that the COSTA requirements apply to split-screen advertising in the same way as traditional spot advertising shown during commercial breaks.

It goes on to highlight the importance of ensuring that the integrity of a programme is maintained.

Although it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of factors relevant to maintaining the integrity of a program, Ofcom advises that the following are likely to be important:

  • the type of programme during which split-screen advertising is scheduled (news, current affairs etc)
  • the need to maintain viewer confidence that a programme is impartial and free from commercial influence (such as in the context of the news)
  • the need to treat editorial content with appropriate sensitivity (a programme must be able to convey its messages without undue distraction, for example where the programme focuses on a national tragedy or emergency), and
  • the need to protect particular sectors of the audience (eg children) from excessive exposure to commercial messages.

This article was written by Vanessa Barnett.

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