TV advert breaks could get longer and more frequent as Ofcom considers rule shake-up

Public broadcasting channels are currently limited to an average of seven minutes of advertising an hour across the day

TV advert breaks could become longer and more frequent as part of a review of UK broadcasting rules.

The regulator, Ofcom, has said market developments, including the availability of online streaming services, mean it would consider changing advertising regulations.

TV advert breaks could soon become longer and more frequent (Photo: Adobe)

It said traditional broadcasters are facing increasing competition from these services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, in terms of viewing figures and programme commissions.

In a report looking at the re-licensing of ITV and Channel 5, Ofcom said the expanded choice of entertainment was “generally positive” for audiences, but “put pressure on broadcasters, squeezing revenues, and made it harder for them to maintain their current offer".

How long can ad breaks be?

Under current regulations, public broadcasting channels, which include ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, are limited to an average of seven minutes of advertising per hour across the day.

Between the hours of 6pm and 11pm, the average amount of advertising time per hour cannot rise above eight minutes.

Only one advert break is granted during a show lasting between 21 and 44 minutes and they are not allowed to last longer than three minutes and 50 seconds.

Private channels are allowed nine minutes of advertising, plus an extra three for teleshopping.

There are also special rules for specific types of programming such as children’s shows, news, religious services and royal ceremonies.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We’re scoping a range of options, but before we form any plans we’ll listen to different views and examine what TV viewers say.

“We need to strike the right balance between protecting viewers’ interests and sustaining our traditional broadcasters, which includes helping them compete with American streaming platforms.”

The watchdog said it was conducting research into audiences’ views on the trade-off between more advertising and more in-programme branding.

It added: “Any changes to our approach on commercial references is likely to be seen as a benefit for all broadcasters”.

It comes following the publication of the government’s broadcasting White Paper which includes plans for Ofcom to regulate streaming platforms to “protect audiences” from “harmful material”.

Ofcom said it expects to give more details about the potential changes to advertising later in the summer.