Ofcom to allow channel and station sponsors

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Media regulator Ofcom is to allow the sponsorship of entire television channels and radio stations, subject to certain safeguards intended to preserve editorial independence and protect viewers.

Channel and radio station sponsorship could generate additional revenues for media owners in a challenging advertising market. They could also help counteract lost revenues as viewers and listeners turn to on-demand consumption of programming via digital TV and radio recorders and internet downloads.

While sponsorship of commercial TV and radio programmes has been allowed under broadcasting regulations for 15 years, TV channels and radio stations have not been permitted to seek sponsors for their entire output.

Ofcom said it would now amend its Broadcasting Code to allow channel and station sponsorship, subject to certain restrictions. Broadcasters are not allowed to sell sponsorship for news programming and current affairs TV programming; at the same time certain products such as alcoholic drink brands are not allowed to sponsor children's programmes.

Ofcom said it had considered responses to its consultation, launched in February, and concluded that it would allow the "sponsorship of any channel, so long as the amount of programming that cannot be sponsored is limited". So channels and stations that broadcast short hourly news bulletins will be allowed to be sponsored, but an alcohol brand will not be allowed to sponsor a children's television channel.

Other restrictions include:

  • Viewers must be made aware of the sponsorship arrangement and the sponsor's credits must be separated from all other editorial and advertising content on the channel
  • Credits for the channel sponsor must not appear in or around programmes that cannot be sponsored and credits should not suggest that these programmes are included in the sponsorship arrangement
  • The sponsor's presence on the channel should not be unduly prominent
  • Broadcasters will be unable to name channels after the sponsor.

"Channel sponsorship represents a new opportunity for broadcasters; however it is important that transparency, editorial independence and appropriate protection for the audience are maintained," said Ofcom.

Lovelace Consulting  |  25.10.2006

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