David Prosser: ITV celebrates shorter commercial breaks

Outlook One might think that a reduction in the number of minutes of advertising broadcasters are allowed to show each hour, as recommended by the House of Lords yesterday, would be bad news for ITV, the biggest commercial television company. In fact, ITV backed the idea, leaving it to the advertising agencies to get upset.

The warm welcome is not really so counter-intuitive. For one thing, the Lords also recommended scrapping contract renewal rights, the rules that for years have limited ITV's ability to raise the rates paid by many advertisers. For another, analysts think cutting the screen-time available to advertising – and the cuts would be even more pronounced for non public-sector broadcasters, that is everyone except ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five – would see prices shoot up by between 10 and 20 per cent. It's a reduction of supply with no change in demand.

There are some quick wins from these recommendations, in other words. Above all, viewers, who mostly hate the intrusion, will have to watch fewer advertisements. ITV and Channel Four, bothstruggling to bounce back from the recession, should get a lift too. Just don't expect the advertising agencies and their clients to take this lying down.