Way back in 2015, I complained about the amount of advertising on television. In October of 2015 I
wrote the following: “Marketing surveys now show that when Americans come home from work, more folks turn on their
computer than their television sets. That is a first.” . . . A main reason is that TV is just plain awful!
I continued on with my complaint by stating that TV stations were free to show as many ads as they
wanted. And do they ever! There was a problem eight years ago and here in 2023 the problem has only gotten
worse – much worse!
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should do its job to protect American TV viewers by
severely restricting the interminable commercial breaks that keep growing in number and duration. I, and millions like me,
spend what seems like an interminable amount of time channel-surfing when commercials come on. The networks just keep piling
one commercial on after another during their commercial break time. Even the supposedly commercial-free public stations now
tell us who is sponsoring their “commercial-free” programs and contributing funds to keep their programming going. Enough is
enough – let’s get back to content without so much selling.
The early promise of cable TV was that, in exchange for paying for TV, we'd be spared the commercials
and get a wider variety of quality programming. But that never happened. Not only do the cable-only channels show ads, they
show lots of ads. Classic reruns and movies are cut beyond recognition to make room for more and longer-duration ads.
Since I’m paying for cable television, why should I have to put up with the seemingly infinite number
of commercials that fill up air time? You’d think that you could get programming without commercials since you are paying for
cable. I am totally fed up with the interminable number of commercials on TV! At any given time, there can be
a string of 4, 5 or even 6 commercials, one right after the other. Try channel-hopping to find a station that isn’t airing a
concurrent commercial and it seems that all the TV stations have colluded to air their commercials at the exact same time so
you can’t avoid being forced to watch a commercial.
A good commercial can be both informative and entertaining - the first time and maybe even on the 5th
showing. But by the time the commercial is repeated for the 20th or 100th time, it has lost its crowd appeal and, if you are
like me, turned me off to the product being advertised. All too often, a repeated commercial is like a dead fish -
after a while it stinks!
How about all those ads for over-the-counter and prescription medicines? I am appalled at
those commercials that scare the unwary with all the bad things that can happen when one uses the medicine being
touted. The commercials spend 10 seconds telling the viewer about the benefits of using the medicine and then proceed
to spend the next two minutes terrifying the viewer with a seemingly endless list of calamities that can result from using the
product. Many of the drug ads spend so much time warning me about the hazards to my health that I don’t know what the drug is
More than ever, the American television viewer needs legislation and enforcement that limits
the number and/or the duration of commercials in any show or in any span of time.
In France, the number of commercials allowed is decided by law. No more than 2 commercial breaks per show or
Does it seem like there are more TV ads here in 2023? You’re right. There are. You are not imagining
The amount of commercial time on cable TV keeps increasing as networks try to make up for shrinking
audiences by stuffing more ads into every hour of television. That’s despite years of promises to cut back on ads.
In 2019, commercial time rose 1%. After declining in 2017, the volume of ads increased every quarter
in 2018 and expanded again in the first half of 2019.
As TV viewership declines and more consumers jump to streaming services, media companies have only
a couple of options to generate the advertising revenue that Wall Street expects: They can raise prices, run more commercials
or do both.
Media companies are adding more commercials because sponsors are more sensitive to price increases
than to clutter. If a TV network were to cut the time allotted for commercials, it would need to boost advertising rates to
make up the difference — a tough sell if rival networks aren’t doing the same.
The result is “an economic standoff” between the networks and advertisers. And the losers are
Networks can’t afford to cut their commercial loads dramatically without it affecting ad revenue.
At the same time, advertising agencies aren’t willing to accept dramatically higher prices for more commercial time.
The big issue isn’t the total amount of commercial time, but the long breaks that viewers
If you have to wait six minutes for your content to come back in a world where people have remotes
and can quickly switch to Netflix or Hulu, that exacerbates the issue. Too many commercials probably isn’t the main reason
people cancel their cable-TV service, but it’s definitely among the top five
It turned out to be a sad day some 40 years ago, when, in November of 1982, the broadcasting
industry and the Justice Department agreed to eliminate restraints on the duration of television commercials. The consent
decree raised the likelihood that nearly all restrictions on TV advertising would be dropped. The decision settled an
antitrust suit that the Justice Department brought against the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) on July 14, 1979,
charging that it was illegal for the members of the trade group to agree to restrict advertising.
"This is a sad day for the American public," the president of the NAB
said. "Pure and simple, today's action means that the Government does not want television broadcasters to
attempt to govern themselves by voluntarily limiting the amount of advertising broadcast into the public's homes."
The agreement eliminated the rules that had restricted advertising to one product in each 30-second
spot, limited the stations to broadcasting no more than five consecutive advertisements and limited advertising to no more
than eight and one-half minutes an hour.
Back in 1982, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had been paying little attention to the
regulation of program content, mostly because of the general movement toward deregulation. The chairman of the FCC had said
that he wanted to deregulate television entirely, so broadcasters would be as free to operate as newspapers, with no limits
on amounts or types of advertising. He got what he wanted.
QUESTION: Are there guidelines/limits for the amount of commercial time during TV shows? On
Saturday, May 4, 2013, one viewer was watching the movie The Expendables on cable TV. There were 30
minutes of commercials and 31 minutes of movie. Fair or foul?
As of 2013, there were no rules regulating the amount of airtime a television station or network —
cable or otherwise — could devote to commercials, according to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spokesperson.
The exception to that rule was in children's programing.
Today, ten years later, I can find no indication that anything has changed. I can find
no indication that the FCC, or any other government agency,
exercises any control over the quantity, duration or frequency of television advertising. The time has long since
passed for that to change!
- What I Hate Most About Today’s TV, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 237,
6 October 2015.
- TV networks vowed to cut back on commercials. Instead, they stuffed in more, Gerry Smith,
3 August 2019.
- LIMITS ON DURATION AND FREQUENCY OF TV COMMERCIALS ARE DROPPED, Ernest Holsendolph,
The New York Times, 24 November 1982.
- Q&A: Are there FCC guidelines on amount of commercials?, Ernest Holsendolph, Tampa Bay Times,
15 May 2013.