CAB wants more spots

A battle is brewing between advertisers and television broadcasters over the number of commercial minutes per hour permitted on Canadian television. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) wants the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to loosen its current policy limiting...

A battle is brewing between advertisers and television broadcasters over the number of commercial minutes per hour permitted on Canadian television.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) wants the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to loosen its current policy limiting broadcasters to 12 commercial minutes per hour and move closer to the model followed in the U.S., which deregulated its airwaves years ago.

Advertising in the U.S. has risen to more than 15 minutes per hour, according to the annual U.S. Television Commercial Monitoring Report, prepared by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers.

The CAB would like the CRTC to exempt all promotional spots from the 12-minute rule, including promotions for television shows, Canadian movies and live theatre. It is also pushing for Canadian infomercials to be classified as Canadian content.

Currently, political advertising and Canadian promotional programming, including sponsorship of closed captioning, are excluded from the definition of advertising.

The CRTC is expected to table its new ‘vision’ for television in mid-June. It will be the first revision of the current rules in more than 13 years.

Opposing the CAB is the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), the Institute of Canadian Advertising (ICA) and the Canadian Media Directors Council (CMDC). The groups say any attempt to loosen the Canadian advertising regulations will increase ad clutter and diminish the value of commercials, and could cause broadcasters to lose audience share.

Canadian broadcasters are already playing fast and loose with the regulations, says Ron Lund, ACA president.

According to a study conducted last fall by Nielsen Media Research for the ACA, four out of five broadcasters – some 81% – in five Canadian television markets are exceeding the 12-minute rule and running an average of 14.65 minutes of commercials per hour.

‘We’re starting to really mirror the stuff that is coming out of the U.S. They deregulated and now have (nearly) 20 minutes of programming per half-hour,’ says Lund. ‘They’re more honest about it. They’ve deregulated entirely, so it’s buyer beware.’

Lund says he understands some program promos are needed to fill the roughly two-minute commercial gap that results when Canadian networks broadcast U.S. programming, but that Canadian broadcasters have taken things even further than necessary.

Calgary was the worst offender of the five markets studied, with 91% of the broadcasters studied exceeding the 12-minute rule. Montreal English broadcasters were next, followed by Vancouver, Montreal’s French television stations, and Toronto.

Adding to the problem is the intrusion of political campaign advertising, which boosts ad clutter a good 5-10%, says Lund.

During an election, political parties can request that their commercials be aired during any programs they wish and broadcasters must give it to them, bumping other advertisers who have paid top dollar for the time.

TV broadcasters experienced a windfall of between $6 million and $7 million from political advertising during the last federal election, Lund says. As Ontario prepares for its provincial election, the ACA is suggesting its members seek compensation from broadcasters for losses suffered in the onslaught.

In the end, the CRTC may not be able to give either side much satisfaction. While both broadcasters and advertisers have made submissions to the Commission, the CRTC has yet to decide whether it will even reconsider the ad-minute-per-hour regulations, according to Denis Carmel, a CRTC spokesman.

‘I can’t say at this point whether we will touch on this subject or not in TV policy: it’s a very delicate subject.’