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Cross-promotion on TV: time to change the rules?

This page provides material relating to Reckon's August 2004 article (2 pages, PDF) which put a case for change in Ofcom's rules on cross-promotion by commercial TV broadcasters in the UK.

Update May 2006: Ofcom has published the conclusions to its December 2005 consultation on its cross-promotion rules.

The legacy ITC code on cross-promotion

The ITC's Rules on the Promotion of Programmes, Channels and Related Services on Commercial Television were published in January 2002, and were carried forward by Ofcom, under the Communications Act 2003. This code is set to expire on 10 July 2006, when the new rules will come into effect.

The ITC rules on cross-promotion allowed a commercial TV licensee to promote certain programmes, channels and related services outside its allowable advertising airtime, subject to conditions intended to ensure that these promotions provide information of value to viewers and avoid creating significant viewer annoyance. To qualify, the promoted services needed to be "provided" by the broadcaster, where provision was defined as possession of at least 30 per cent of shares or voting power. Examples of services that can be cross-promoted include TV channels and programmes, and related websites or interactive content. In addition to these general rules, special conditions were placed on ITV (ITV1), Channel 4, and Five, owing to particular competition concerns. These broadcasters must not give an "excessive" amount of promotional airtime to particular services, and cannot include any information on prices.

None of these restrictions on cross-promotion applied to BBC channels provided under the BBC Charter although the Government white paper on the BBC Royal Charter 2007-2016 would require the BBC Trust to draw up a code of conduct in respect of its own promotional activities.

Summary of Reckon's August 2004 article

The Reckon article recommended that promotional airtime (in which a broadcaster can promote certain services outside its limits on advertising minutes per hour) should be defined according to the types of services that can be promoted in this airtime (e.g. other TV programmes, channels, etc) and not according to whose service is being promoted. This would move away from the current rules, in which promotional airtime outside of the advertising airtime is restricted to cases where the promoted service is "owned" by the broadcaster.

Under the proposed approach, broadcasters would be able to sell cross-promotional opportunities, foregoing the promotion of their own services in favour of a fee for the promotion of a third party's services. This would provide strong incentives for commercial broadcasters to refrain from using cross-promotional airtime to damage competition (e.g. by excessively promoting their own services). In turn, the lower risks to competition would allow the scope of the regulations to be minimised, and for the rules to be fine-tuned to aid the flow of relevant information to consumers. Such a change would not seem incompatible with the TWF Directive in the case of the analogue terrestrial broadcasters, which currently face tougher limits on their "paid for" advertising minutage than required under the TWF Directive.

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Last changed by Franck at 4:23 PM on Wednesday 10 May 2006.

Reference for this page:
Reckon Open "Cross-promotion" 2006-05-10T16:23:27
Link within Reckon Open: [[Cross-promotion]]