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Are there rules on the length of advertising breaks in France?

The recent World Cup has highlighted the number of adverts shown by French broadcasters. We take a look at the regulations they have to follow

The French media watchdog, the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel sets the rules on how long advertising breaks can last Pic: Hasbi Sahin / Shutterstock

Reader question: Are there no laws on the length of advertising breaks in France? Watching a World Cup game on TF1, the whole half-time break was adverts

There are indeed rules on how long advertising breaks can last, and they are enforced by the French media watchdog, the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel. 

Private networks are allowed to show an average of nine minutes of adverts per hour over the course of the day and up to 12 minutes in any given hour. 

TF1 is private, even though it is Channel 1, following its privatisation in 1987. 

Football’s half-time breaks being 15 minutes, this allows it to broadcast uninterrupted adverts and return just before the second half, whereas British viewers would expect to have at least some analysis in that time. 

We tested it for the Belgium v Canada match: there were more than 13 minutes of continuous advertising, but this included several ‘sponsors’ of the programme. 

The legal texts differentiate between advertising and sponsorship. 

The rules are stricter for public channels such as France 2 and France 3. 

They cannot broadcast more than six minutes of adverts per hour on average over the course of a day, or more than eight minutes in any given hour. 

Adverts are also banned on public television after 20:00. The rules are similar in the UK. 

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, states that channels 3 to 5 can broadcast up to an average of seven minutes of adverts per hour in any one day, and nine minutes for other channels. 

In any one hour, there can be up to 12 minutes of adverts, or eight minutes for channels 3 to 5 during prime periods of 18:00-23:00 and 07:00-09:00. 

The difference is French channels will often use the 12-minute allowance at once.

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