Television Advertising: Australia and the UK Compared.

For many years now I have been a “timeshifter”. I don’t mean that I have a tardis or that I traverse space and time in any way, but I do record television programs to watch later.

As a result of this I very rarely, if ever, watch a TV programme as it happens. The big exception to this is, of course, live sport and in particular English Premier League football.

But the other day…… Hold on, time for an ad break…..

Where was I?

Ah yes, TV advertising.

Although some adverts are mildly amusing, like the one I’ve put above, most are nothing other than irritating. And when they keep interrupting the program you are trying to watch, they can get extremely irritating. That’s why “timeshifting” works well, just fast forward past the ads.

How many of you actually skipped past the ad above? Exactly!

But adverts here are so prolific, even constantly having to press the fast forward is irritating. How irritating is that!

The other night me and Mrs BobinOz sat down to watch the final film in the Bourne trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum. We’d seen the previous two on DVD and therefore, blissfully, advert free.

But when we (thankfully) recorded (rather than watched in real time) the third film from terrestrial TV’s Channel 7, the film lasted 148 minutes from the beginning to the very end.

But in reality, the film is only 115 minutes long.

So that’s 33 minutes of adverts in slightly less than two and a half hours of TV. We think there were 11 ad breaks in all; we seemed to watch the film for 10 minutes at a time and then have to fast forward through about 3 minutes of adverts.

If it hadn’t have been for that fast forward button, I don’t think we would have made it to the end.

I don’t remember it being as bad as this in the UK, so I decided to do a little research.

UK television adverts.

TV ads in the UK are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority or ASA. I was trying to wade through all their rules to find out the maximum number of adverts allowed per hour, but had no success.

But I did find this information, dated 17th of February 2011. It has a good chance of being the truth, I found it on

Current limits

Public Service Broadcasters (ITV 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5) permit an average of 7 minutes of advertising per hour, maximum of 8 minutes per hour at peak times.

Australian television adverts.

Here in Australia, TV ads are regulated by The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

They have a PDF called Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2010 and the  hourly limits are discussed on page 27.

Current limits

Please note I am comparing like-for-like here and talking only about Public Service Broadcasters, rather than digital subscription channels.

These are the hourly limits for program shown between 6 PM and midnight. Here’s how it works.

  • Outside of election periods, 13 minutes per hour.
  • In election periods, 14 minutes per hour.
  • If the hour includes a news programme and it’s during an election period, 16 minutes.
  • Where there is no election (there isn’t at the moment) but where the averages in clause 5.6 are satisfied (I haven’t printed clause 5.6 as I didn’t fully understand it, but maybe that’s because I was specifically looking for the words “when The Bourne Ultimatum is being shown”) it’s 15 minutes per hour as long as no more than 14 minutes are scheduled for four of those hours.
  • Oh, and if it’s not between 6 PM and midnight? 16 minutes!

I don’t know about you, but I much prefer the simplicity of the U.K.’s rules. As for the two countries respective hourly limits, Australia could learn a lot from the UK on this one.

Frankly, watching TV in real time here is pretty much intolerable. Which is not surprising with TWICE as many adverts! Recording programs to watch later is the only answer.

But I know what you really want to find out is what was The Bourne ultimatum like? I don’t know, but I do know that Target were having a toy sale.

Visa Assessment Service
{ 20 comments… add one }
  • djmcbell May 25, 2016, 9:34 pm |

    We watch (well, we say “watch”) Britain’s Got Talent, and it’s on all week at the moment in it’s final leg! However, we record it and start watching it later (whilst it’s still recording), fast-forwarding through the ads (and the intros, and some of the boring acts, and some of the boring judges) and get through it in record time.

    What would we do without timeshifting?

    Here in the UK, just about all set-top boxes allow you to do this now. Ours allows us to record up to three things at once, rewind or pause whatever we’re currently watching and it’s great.

    • BobinOz May 26, 2016, 5:47 pm |

      Yes, you can’t beat a bit of fast forwarding, as I think I said in my article somewhere above, I just don’t watch anything live anymore, it’s just too painful.

      You’ll be very pleased to hear that Britain’s Got Talent is currently on our regular TV here at the moment as well. Only just started. I know you are due to arrive here sometime soon, and I don’t know how long the show last, but you have every chance of being able to watch the final leg all over again. Isn’t that exciting?

  • CharlieC January 15, 2015, 1:17 pm |

    This raises a few questions:
    1) Why are Australians putting up with more of the junk?
    1.1) Do they like it? NAH.
    1.2) Are they more stupid? Doubt it.
    1.3) Do they have less democracy? Probably.
    2) How much more hated are advertisers in Australia?

    And some answers:
    A) We should tot up the advertising pain each advertiser inflicts on us, or tries to, then use that to help decide what we buy. Share this information too.
    B) Advertising may cost a big chunk of the price of goods. Those who don’t respond to adverts get a discount. (Will often exceed 10%!)
    C) Junk the advertising channels (like ditch the TV) and find other ways to get information.

    • BobinOz January 15, 2015, 10:29 pm |

      Sounds like you hate advertising even more than I do CharlieC, good on ya! The most insidious form of advertising that is now creeping into our TVs is the pop-up bar at the bottom.

      I recently stopped watching a TV series on TEN because I was fed up with them reminding me that some crap family quiz show was starting at 6 PM on Friday and this pop-up just popped up and stayed popped up for pretty much the whole 43 minutes of the program.

      Advertising during a program!

      These days if is on TEN, I don’t bother. Vote with your feet.

  • Maree.AU December 30, 2014, 9:19 pm |

    Adds, I hate damn adds!!! I mute the tv every time they come on, or if there is something I really wish to watch, I pre record it so I can fast forward ALL adds

    • BobinOz December 31, 2014, 6:23 pm |

      I couldn’t agree more, I hate them as well. That’s why I can’t really get into ‘on demand’ Internet TV, it seems impossible to skip the ads and they have even more of them than usual online. Spoils the program for me when you spend about a third of your time getting adverts rammed down your throat.

  • LukeInCad April 1, 2012, 8:44 am |

    Stumled apon your blog when googling x-ray costs in Australia. I’ll admit I stopped watching TV soon after the “war on terror” started. Terror threats this, targets that. The media didn’t seem to see how tabloid it had become. I thought I had a point, but I don’t exept to say this Australian agrees it’s bulls$#t. Whinge on brother.

    • BobinOz April 2, 2012, 9:06 pm |

      I’m with you on this one, I stopped reading newspapers for the same reason. I never watch TV “live”, only selectively recording and using the fast forward button regularly. And I whinge under my breath as those images on the TV flash past at 30 times normal speed.

  • gareth January 30, 2012, 9:05 pm |

    I forgot to tell you where my blog was! haha!

    Good on ya!

    • BobinOz January 31, 2012, 1:16 am |

      Yes, I’d already found it. Your name links to it. Like your writing style, but if I were you I would get off of blogspot and go self hosted. Otherwise, it’s never yours. It belongs to blogspot.

  • gareth January 30, 2012, 9:03 pm |

    Hi Bob! I just came across you website and I love it. I would have been in Oz a Year in June. I started up a Blog too and I actually just finished a post on how crap the TV is! We bothe agree! P.S. How ANNOYING are Harvey Norman Ads!!

    Take a look at my Blog if you like, we can throw some ideas around! If you’d like to contribute to my blog please get in touch id be happy to have a chat!

    • BobinOz January 31, 2012, 1:13 am |

      Never seen one, I always fast forward through the ads. Never watch anything in real time, that’s the golden rule. otherwise it would drive me mad too!

  • moom November 7, 2011, 9:43 pm |

    Yeah on commercial TV in Oz it’s as bad as in the US. SBS has about the same number of ads as in the UK or less. ABC doesn’t have any of course.

    • BobinOz November 7, 2011, 10:07 pm |

      Oh yes, the US, where a one hour TV show lasts 42 minutes! But as you say, same here.

  • Sean September 30, 2011, 9:17 pm |

    I think we’re starting to sound like miserable old gits, maybe you ought to start a new section: The grumpy guide to oz?!

    • BobinOz October 3, 2011, 9:03 pm |

      Ha! Mrs BobinOz would say I started sounding like one a long time ago. She even bought me a ‘Grumpy’ mug.

      Unbelievable! Or maybe not.

  • Sean September 30, 2011, 4:57 am |

    And most decent shows on Sky in the UK are plastered with ads, I’ve often seen a few programmes that have a set of ads straight after the title credits!

    I’m with you Bob, a Sky+ box is essential to run through them!

    • BobinOz September 30, 2011, 8:29 pm |

      That’s true, and don’t we pay enough each month for Sky or, as it is here in Australia, Foxtel? The only advert free zones are the movie channels during the movie. But I suppose one day they will shove ads in there too.

      What really annoys me these days though, is you will be watching a program and they will flash up some text like ‘subtitles’ advertising some kind of program or other that is coming soon.

      That’s really irritating!

  • Hilary September 28, 2011, 10:44 pm |

    The most annoying thing about UK TV advertising is the BBC nowadays – supposedly ‘advert free’ – so why do I have to watch several minutes of adverts for other BBC shows when sitting down to watch a programme? Its meant programmes are made shorter and shorter to accommodate this advertising at the top of every hour, and whether they are advertising BBC programmes or not, its still advertising, and not what I pay my license fee for. Grrrr ranty….:D

    • BobinOz September 30, 2011, 8:25 pm |

      Hillary, I’ve never seen you this angry!

      I know what you mean, it’s still advertising which ever way you cut it. They even advertise other programs during programmes, I’ve seen it before on Match of the Day. Just give us the TV shows!

      Try complaining or not paying the license fee, they’ll soon be round in those vans. Grrr! You’ve made me angry now.

Leave a Comment

If your comment doesn’t get answered, find out why…..
FAQs and Comment Policy.