COBA welcomes Ofcom decision not to change COSTA ad rules

COBA, the industry body for commercial broadcasters and on-demand services, has strongly welcomed Ofcom’s decision not to change rules governing the amount of advertising public service channels can show.

COBA and others raised concerned that the proposed changes to allow more advertising on ITV and Channel 4 would result in 27.5 minutes of public service news coverage being lost every weekday. The proposals could have led to 115 hours of public service news programming being cut from schedules each year, according to a report by COBA.

The proposed changes have seen an increase in the total amount of advertising on PSBs of up to 48 minutes a day on each channel – amounting to more than eight hundred hours a year of more adverts. This would have also have had a significant impact on commercial revenues across the broadcasting sector, as well as potentially threatened the viability of smaller commercial channels, potentially undermining media plurality.

COBA Executive Director Adam Minns welcomed the decision today.

He said: “Ofcom has listened to concerns raised by many in the sector and beyond that these proposed changes would have damaged public service news and were not welcomed by audiences. Today’s announcement is good news for public service news and for audiences.’

Ofcom’s decision comes amidst widespread support for public service news in an era of ever-increasing misinformation and “fake news”.

The Government’s White Paper for the Media Bill has highlighted the importance of public service news, a view echoed by the Culture Media and Sport Committee, which pointed to its pivotal role in the pandemic and in combatting misinformation.

Ofcom’s audience research has previously highlighted the critical importance of public service news, which found that: “‘Trusted and accurate news’ is by far the most valued aspect of PSBs, both to people individually and to society.”