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Ofcom proposes to cut ad rules

In what appears to be further relaxing of rules to help commercial radio survive, Ofcom is proposing to allow product placement on radio. 

The regulator is putting forward four options for consultation, one of which will see the end of obvious separation between editorial and advertising.

The four options Ofcom are offering are:

[b]Option A: 'Do nothing' and maintain principle of separation [/b]

This is a 'status quo' option and would maintain the current comprehensive rules, which require all commercial communications (i.e. paid-for references to products or services), other than sponsorship credits, to be separated from programming. Under this option we would replicate the rules currently in Sections Nine and Ten of the Code, in relation to radio, in a new Section Ten. Under Option A, the current regulatory principles of transparency, separation and editorial independence would remain.

[b]Option B: Maintains principle of separation but provide a defined set of exemptions[/b]

This option would also be framed as a comprehensive set of rules and would maintain the requirement for commercial communications (i.e. paid-for references to products or services) to be separated from programming, but would provide a defined set of exemptions. This is the approach Ofcom took in 2009, although this option could include a wider range of exemptions than those proposed in the 2009 consultation. Again, the current principles of transparency, separation and editorial independence, referred to above, would underpin Option B.

[b]Option C: Allows the integration of commercial communications and programming (except in relation to spot ads).[/b]

This option would remove the principle of separation between commercial communications and programming except in relation to spot ads (which would need to be distinguishable from programming). This would give radio stations wide discretion to integrate, for example, paid-for, promotional commercial references into programming, provided they were transparent to listeners. This option would retain spot ads as a distinct type of content and a distinct revenue source. It would be delivered as a slim set of rules designed to secure one principle: transparency of commercial arrangements. Such transparency would be central to ensuring consumer protection. Listeners would know when a commercial arrangement was in place in relation to programming. The principles of editorial independence and separation (except in relation to spot ads) would no longer apply under Option C.

[b]Option D: Allows the integration of commercial communications and programming (including in relation to spot ads). [/b]

This option would remove the principle of separation between commercial communications (including spot ads) and programming. This would give radio stations complete discretion to integrate seamlessly commercial elements into programming and would no longer distinguish between traditional spot ads and other commercial communications. It would be delivered as a slim set of rules designed to secure a principle of transparency of commercial arrangements. As for Option C, above, such transparency would be central to ensuring consumer protection. The principles of editorial independence and separation would no longer apply under Option D.

Read the full consultation document [link=http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/bcrradio2010/radiocondoc.pdf]here[/link].

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