Most commercial broadcasters in Europe are allowed to show a maximum of 15 minutes advertising per hour. This is the limit proposed in a new EU directive being planned. In Sweden, the maximum level is 12 minutes per hour, something that TV4 has been protesting against for several years.
TV3 and Kanal 5 both broadcast by satellite from London, meaning they are bound by looser British rules rather than the strict Swedish regulations that apply to terrestrial competitor TV4.
Writing in media magazine Resumé, culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth said that the government wants to bring Swedish rules in line with EU standards. The new rules will come into effect on February 1st next year.
Adelsohn Liljeroth said that the current rules distort competition and encourage broadcasters which target a Swedish audience to base themselves abroad. This in turn makes it harder to enforce Swedish rules restricting commercials aimed at children and adverts for alcohol.
The government also wants to scrap limits on radio advertising altogether. The minister said she was aware that this alone would not solve problems in the commercial radio industry. The concession fees paid by commercial radio stations and the requirement for local content are among the questions she said she would address in the future.
In the article, Adelsohn Liljeroth says that the new official inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting will reflect the fact that all the parties of the governing Alliance have vowed to protect public service.
“But to protect something must not mean that it is forbidden to discuss the way it is run.”
Adelsohn Lileroth’s comments were welcomed by TV4 boss Jan Scherman as “better late than never.”
“This is a very sensible position for the culture minister to take. It is obvious that there should be a level playing field in a sector with lots of competing companies. We have previously had a competitive advantage and we have been made to pay for it. Now that everyone will be equal, this should also apply to earning potential,” he said.
The fact that TV4 would under the proposed changes be able to increase the amount of time given to commercials by 25 percent will not lead to income rising by the same amount. It is not even certain that the company would be able to fill the new advertisement quotas.
“When this is all down on paper we will analyse carefully how we will use the new advertising rules. We and our competitors must use the rules in a way that audiences think is good.”
Scherman said he was unworried by the fact that Sweden will maintain bans on advertising of alcoholic drinks and commercials aimed at children.
“We have said many times that the bans are justified given the power of television as a medium.”