Earlier this week, it was reported that media regulator Ofcom is considering to increase the duration of TV adverts.

The Telegraph.co.uk said the proposals were immediately attacked by politicians and consumer groups, who said they could turn British television into a mirror image of America, where advertising breaks are often screened immediately after a programme’s opening credits.

What the rules are now

The channels are not allowed to have more than one commercial break per half-hour programme, increasing to two per hour-long programme.

The watchdog is also calling for a change in the rules so that broadcasters are allowed to show commercials in religious shows and documentaries that last less than 30 minutes.

In addition, films could be interrupted once every 30 minutes, rather than the present 45 minutes.

What now?

The watchdog said it was reviewing the rules at a time when traditional commercial broadcasters are seeing their advertising revenues fall, as viewers move in droves to digital channels.

“We recognise the possible concerns of viewers about the amount and intrusiveness of television advertising,” an Ofcom spokesman said. “On the other hand, Ofcom must also take account of the contribution made by advertising revenue in paying for the choice of television services that viewers enjoy.”

However, an insider at the watchdog claimed: “Anything could go. This could lead to shorter and more frequent breaks or longer ones.”

It went on to say, “We will consider what people say before making suggestions later in the year. In particular, we would like to hear more about what members of the public, broadcasters and advertisers think about these issues.”

Ofcom will publish its proposals later this year. Any changes would be introduced by January 2010.

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