Until today, European law dictated television channels across Europe to have no more than twelve minutes of advertisements per hour, and in no more than three separate commercial breaks per hour. Today, EU countries decided to let go of this rule and allow commercials to be spread in more, smaller breaks, but still with a maximum of twelve minutes per hour. The change still needs approval from the European Parlement.
European Commissioner Viviane Reding said today “We don’t want an American style of television, with permanent commercials”, and this has been quoted throughout the media today. But, what does that mean? American style with permament commercials?!? A typical half-hour of television in the United States has 22 minutes of programming, 6 minutes of commercials and 2 minutes of local programming (source Wikipedia). This comes down to an average of 12 minutes per hour, which is exactly the same as here in Europe. So what is she talking about?
American style of television is to have more, shorter commercial breaks, which is exactly what the European countries decided to follow today. Personally, I prefer that a lot more than the two or three very long commercial breaks per hour that we now have on Dutch television.
Much of our programming comes from the United States, and those sitcoms and series are made to have four commercial breaks in them. Until now Dutch television was forced to change this and place their breaks in different parts of an episode, which often doesn’t work; the commercial breaks often end up in awkward places or in the middle of scenes.
An exception to the rule that was agreed today, is that children’s and news programming may not have a commercial break in the first half hour.