Ofcom extends sponsorship of TV and radio channels

Ofcom has announced that it will allow the sponsorship of entire television and radio stations, the most significant change to sponsorship rules since sponsorship of individual programmes was first permitted 15 years ago.

The regulator, which last week decided not to recommend a relaxation of product- placement rules, said that it will amend its Broadcasting Code to allow single sponsors to back television and radio stations. The move is likely to most favour digital channels with specialist programming or programming targeted at a specific demographic.

Ofcom's decision follows its announcement in February that it would consider channel sponsorship and that it would consult on the best way of introducing this. It intends to allow sponsorship of any channel as long as the channel carries only limited amounts of the types of programming, such as news, which cannot be sponsored.

The regulator intends to introduce safeguards to protect editorial integrity and young viewers. These include sponsors' credits being separated from editorial and ad content, a sponsor's presence not being "unduly prominent" and broadcasters being unable to name a channel after a sponsor.

Broadcast sponsorship has grown more sophisticated over the years. More traditional deals such as Cadbury's sponsorship of Coronation Street have been joined by activity such as Stella Artois sponsoring Channel 4's film broadcasts.