Planned EU ad curbs come under fire

The Government and Parliament are fighting plans by the European Union to limit the amount of advertising on television.

The latest draft of a long-running EU plan to liberalise TV rules throughout Europe could impose new curbs on the frequency of commercials, despite strong opposition from the British ad industry.

The Television Without Frontiers directive, first put forward in 1989, proposes that programmes should be interrupted by commercials only once every 30 minutes. News and children's programmes could not include ads unless they were 35 minutes long.

Commercial TV channels fear the plan would result in fewer children's programmes.

The Advertising Association, led by Peta Buscombe, is lobbying against the curbs, and argues that the types of programmes should be left to member states. It wants the EU to allow isolated spots, which, under the directive, would only be permitted during sports programmes. Without that, it says a commercial break with two 15-second ads would be allowed, but one with a 30-second ad would not.

This week, the House of Lords European Union Committee, which monitors EU laws, said in a report: "We are unconvinced by the case made for any of the proposed quantitative rules on advertising. We believe that in an increasingly competitive environment, consumers will be able to influence for themselves the volume of advertising which they find acceptable."

- Comment, page 40.

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