At the moment in the UK the so-called terrestrial channels ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5 can run up to eight minutes of ads in any one hour as long as they average seven minutes an hour across the day. Digital channels, including the various Sky offerings, can run up to 12 minutes in any one hour as long as they average nine minutes across the day.
Now the House of Lords communications committee has suggested that digital channels should fall into line with the terrestrials, a suggestion that has not been received warmly by the aforementioned digital channels who claim they could lose £80m a year in ad revenue.
Their Lordships have also suggested scrapping the CRR rules that prevent ITV hiking its prices in return for a commitment by the station to produce more home-grown children’s, current affairs and arts programmes. The committee reckons scrapping CRR will earn ITV an extra £30m to £55m.
So dear old Melvyn Bragg and his South Bank Show arts programme could be back on ITV then?
In the normal course of events the world would just ignore the peers and move on but next year is supposed to see the beginning of ‘digital switchover’ after which every household in the UK is supposed to have a TV set capable of receiving digital programmes.
So, in theory, the audiences for these smaller digital channels should rise substantially, making it possible for them to play on the same size pitch as the big boys.
And it is true that the sheer volume of ads on some of the smaller channels makes viewing a pain (as do many of the programmes) although this is often due to their repetitive nature – gloomy charity ads, price comparison websites, ambulance-chasing lawyers and dodgy money lenders – as the number of them.
There’s also the suspicion that no-one’s really counting the ads properly so some channels routinely exceed their limits.
As for ITV it would obviously like to get rid of CRR and it seems fair enough to couple this with a commitment to making the programmes ITV bosses Archie Norman and Adam Crozier told a committee of MPs in the lower house recently that they would like to make but couldn’t because of the need to deliver huge ratings.
Did they mean it? Perhaps we should hear from them.