Ofcom's draft broadcast code relaxes sponsorship rules

LONDON - Media regulator Ofcom has vowed to reduce rules governing television sponsorship to a minimum and give broadcasters greater freedom in this area in its draft broadcasting code.

The watchdog has published the draft code today, outlining new rules for safeguarding viewers under the age of 15, but at the same time promising a "less intrusive" regulatory approach for adult material.

In the section of the code dealing with sponsorship, Ofcom is proposing to cut a number of rules. This will include the lifting of the ban on TV news and current affairs presenters appearing in sponsored programmes that are scheduled next to new programmes and changes to the content of credits.

Ofcom is also proposing to lift some restrictions on the wording that can be used in describing the sponsor's relationship with the programme. This would allow broadcasters to use the line "brought to you by". However, it is maintaining the rule that all sponsorship must be transparent and that editorial integrity is paramount.

The code, once finalised, will apply to all commercial television and radio services and replaces the six codes used by the previous regulators, including the Independent Television Commission and the Radio Authority. It will also apply to the BBC, except for commercial references and election reporting.

Tim Suter, Ofcom's partner for content and standards, said: "A healthy broadcasting system has creative, challenging and provocative programming at its heart. It also respects the desire expressed by parents for tough safeguards to protect children. The code aims to achieve the right balance between the two."

The draft code is issued for public consultation and can be viewed online. The deadline for responses is October 5, with the new code due to be published in January next year, and in force by the end of March 2005. Responses can be sent to BroadcastingCode@ofcom.org.uk.

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