A proposed overhaul of 16-year-old European television advertising rules for the new media era does not go far enough, says RTL, Europe’s biggest TV group.

The European Commission this month proposed scrapping certain advertising restrictions in its sweeping review of TV regulations. But the Commission disappointed commercial broadcasters by suggesting longer advert-free periods during children’s and news shows than under the 1989 rules.

The Brussels body also wants to restrict the introduction of lucrative “isolated spot” adverts to sports matches only, such as a brief commercial during the wait for a corner kick to be taken.

Gerhard Zeiler, RTL chief executive, said: “We are truly disappointed. We think they have missed an opportunity really to modernise advertising rules in a fast-moving environment with new technologies and competition.”

RTL runs 32 television stations, including M6 in France and channel Five in the UK.

Traditional commercial broadcasters pressed for more flexibility in using commercials amid increased competition for advertising. They also say tougher rules on commercials during children’s and news shows could endanger programme-making in these fields.

The growth of digital channels, web-based TV and viewers’ commercial skipping devices have fragmented audiences and challenged the core advertising-driven business of traditional free-to-air broadcasters.

The Commission argues it did as much as it could for traditional commercial broadcasters in its review. It proposes removing a bar on adverts in the first 20 minutes of shows and wants to approve product placement – where brands are featured in programmes in return for money or services.

The product placement plans have sparked fierce opposition from critics who fear the arrival of US-style commercial-heavy television, with advertisers wielding too much influence over programmes.

The proposed changes to the rules must be approved by the European parliament and member states and are expected to come into force in 2009.

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