COBA, the industry body for non-public service broadcasters, has released a new report suggesting that Ofcom proposals to increase adverts on TV will lead to a “huge” cut in news.

The report from COBA suggests that plans to allow more advertising on ITV and Channel 4 would result in 27.5 minutes of public service news coverage being lost every weekday.

COBA’s members include non-public service digital, cable and satellite broadcasters and on-demand services

If Ofcom’s proposals to increase advertising allowances for public service broadcasters (PSBs) are pushed through, it would mean 115 hours of public service news programming could be cut from schedules each year, the report states.

The proposed changes would see an increase in the total amount of advertising on PSBs of up to 48 minutes a day on each channel, “which would have a significant impact on commercial revenues across the broadcasting sector, as well as threaten the viability of smaller commercial channels, potentially undermining media plurality.”

Public service broadcasters currently have strict requirements on how advertising is distributed across peak and off-peak times.

COBA says the increase in advertising hours would force broadcasters to place more adverts around the news, as those shows are the only times where broadcasters can use these extra advertising minutes, “leading to the huge cuts in news editorial output.” The report argues that ITV1’s level of advertising around news could nearly triple in peak times (from around 9.5 minutes to 26 minutes), while Channel 4 could increase adverts from around one minute per hour currently to 12 minutes.

The report from COBA states this would inevitably lead to huge cuts in news editorial output.

COBA Executive Director Adam Minns said: “We are vehemently opposed to these proposals from Ofcom. The research published today shows that increased advertising would severely impact the levels of news programming available to viewers, as well as place a strain on the smaller channels who are so vital to the plurality and diversity in our sector.

“These proposals are ill-thought out and unnecessary, and are not even supported by all public service broadcasters. The result will be to erode the most important aspect of the public service broadcasting system: news.

“Ofcom should be protecting audiences and news programming, not suggesting changes that puts news at risk or harm the viewing experience.”


Jon Creamer

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