Channels 2 and 10 to Be Allowed Longer Ad Breaks

The Second Israeli Broadcasting Authority has decided to cancel the ban on commercial breaks longer than three minutes, which had been instituted to protect viewers.

Viewers of channels 2 and 10 may soon be seeing longer commercial breaks during broadcasts, a move that comes on the heels of last Thursday's decision by the Second Broadcasting Authority's Television Committee. According to the decision, the restriction against commercial breaks longer than three minutes will be lifted for a six-month trial period.

The decision is expected to affect primarily newscasts up to 50 minutes long (this includes, for example, the main newscasts on both channels, which are 45 minutes long).

Until now broadcasts of this duration were only permitted two three-minute clusters of commercials. This move will allow them to stretch these clusters to a total length of 12 minutes, effectively doubling the current total.

The decision was made under pressure from broadcasters, who told the Broadcasting Authority that this limitation would lead them to cut to an extended commercial break immediately after the newscasts' conclusion, thereby interrupting the flow of programming.

The broadcasters' demands were accepted despite the fact that the authority's rules were originally intended to separate the commercial breaks from the news broadcasts, due to the understanding that newscasts were a form of public property for which broadcasters were responsible. In Channel 2's earliest broadcasts, commercials were not permitted at all.

This ruling exemplifies the trend of "flexible regulations" that has characterized the Second Broadcasting Authority since its appointment by the New Public Council. Under this trend there has been more responsiveness to broadcasters' demands for eased restrictions.

For example, several weeks ago Channel 10's programming schedule was approved, despite the fact that it was far from meeting demands regarding programming investment.

In the same vein, the authority has decided to investigate major changes that would enable broadcasters to divvy up commercials on a quarterly, rather than daily, basis.

Currently, broadcasters are allowed to devote up to 10 percent of daily broadcast time to commercials. The decision to make the limit quarterly would enable, among other things, broadcasters to air more commercials during popular programs (such as "A Wonderful Country") and less when viewership is lower. It would also allow more commercials during high-demand periods. The ruling would challenge guidelines intended to protect television consumers from a high dosage of commercials (the limitation was originally hourly, though this limitation was also canceled due to network pressure).

Such a change would require a change in the regulations of the authority, and as such it requested a professional judicial ruling on the matter.

Such a change could also affect the very nature of the viewing experience, since the dosage of commercials would rise and fall based on broadcasters' decisions. Still, officials with the authority said that it seems that even if the changes are realized, hourly limits will be set.