TV viewers may have to watch longer and more frequent adverts if broadcasting regulator Ofcom decides to raise advertising limits under a review of broadcasting rules.
Ofcom said the reassessment would take place because TV watching habits have changed, mainly as a result of the prevalence of online streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+.
The regulator’s current rules state that the “total amount of advertising in any one day must not exceed an average of seven minutes per hour of broadcasting” for ITV, or STV in Scotland, Channel 4, and Channel 5.
These channels can run advertising breaks of up to eight minutes per hour during prime time – between 7am and 9am, and 6pm and 11pm.
Other channels are allowed up to nine minutes of advertising per hour of broadcasting, plus an extra three minutes for teleshopping.
Ofcom’s previous stance was that lengthening or increasing adverts would disrupt people’s viewing of TV programmes.
But it said it would “listen to different views and examine what TV viewers say” before making any changes that it said sought to “strike the right balance between protecting viewers’ interests and sustaining our traditional broadcasters”.
In a statement, an Ofcom spokesman added that this would “help them compete with American streaming platforms”.
A report by Ofcom said: “We are also looking at the rules that set the frequency and length of advertising on broadcast TV.
“These rules are complex, with limits in place for public service broadcasters that are stricter than the rules set for commercial broadcasters.
“We have had initial discussions with stakeholders, and we expect to be able to outline our next steps later this summer.”
The review on the frequency and length of adverts was mentioned in an Ofcom report to culture secretary Nadine Dorries on the public service broadcasting (PSB) licences of ITV and Channel 5 – which are privately owned and funded by advertising.
Their PSB licences are due to expire in 2024, but Ofcom told Ms Dorries it believed there was a “good case” to renew them.
In April, Ms Dorries announced that subscription streaming services, which do not show advertising for most subscribers, are to be regulated by Ofcom for the first time after a request by traditional TV broadcasters.
If they are regulated, the maximum fine for a breach of the code will reportedly be £250,000 or an amount up to five per cent of their revenue – whichever is higher.