Do you want to see a full length film or an irrelevant full length advert obscuring the film all the way through?

Viewers of BBC3 were recently treated to a showing of Castaway – complete with “an on-screen message promoting Casanova… for the duration of the film”, which, apart from being annoying, presumably obscured some of the more, shall we say, revealing aspects of the film.

According to BBC Complaints, people were unhappy, and “some viewers found this ‘programme pointer’ distracting”. What a surprise! They continue “We do not usually put such pointers over films but on this occasion wanted to draw people’s attention to Casanova and felt this was a useful service”.

Aw bless! The poor old BBC, doing its best to provide a useful service to those ungrateful viewers! What utter tosh. It’s the same old BBC arrogance that we see time and again, obsessed with promoting itself and its expanding media empire before all else.

The BBC’s constant adverts for itself are a constant source of irritation – taking up more and more of our already paid for viewing time. It’s not unusual for a programme break to feature: 1) closing titles with a split screen and voice over trailing something else; 2) a ‘coming next’ clip (i.e. next after the adverts!); 3) a lengthy trail for the BBC; 4) another lengthy trail for the BBC; 5) a summary of what’s on other BBC channels; 6) a voiceover about what’s coming up after the programme that’s about to start; 7) a BBC ‘ident’ – e.g. on BBC1 we get one of the red themed artsy people prancing around to simpering music idents (what was wrong with the popular hot air balloon idents featuring beautiful landscapes from around our beautiful country? Presumably they weren’t red enough or artsy enough or non-British enough for the comrades that run BBC1). We’re even getting BBC adverts stuffed into the previously non-existent gap between the Six O’Clock News and the local news!

On terrestrial commercial TV in the UK, advertising is limited, on average, to a maximum of seven minutes per hour. I read recently that the BBC currently spends up to five minutes per hour advertising itself. If this is really the case, the BBC’s case for refusing paid for advertising is weak – they could replace some of their own blather with paid-for adverts – and we viewers wouldn’t notice the difference.

Well, actually, we would notice a couple of differences: 1) The Telly Tax (a.k.a. licence fee) would be cheaper; 2) there’d be less repetition of boring BBC adverts*. Additionally, TV advertising would be more plentiful, which might open up UK TV advertising to more smaller, leaner businesses rather than the high-price high-cost operators who currently dominate TV advertising. Before anyone asks, ITV, C4 and Sky are all more than big enough to look after themselves in a changing world!

* Technology will soon deal with boring, repetitious adverts – a PC could filter out crap advertising as soon as it spots it – e.g. by turning down the volume or by automatically switching to another channel and then back again when the programme resumes and so on (just imagine, no more of those slit your wrists “The Big Game. You know it… blah blah blah” adverts that Sky News insist on running month after month!). Adverts that work will then have to be either useful and informative or amusing and entertaining, or, at the very least, not plain irritating.

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18 Responses to Do you want to see a full length film or an irrelevant full length advert obscuring the film all the way through?

  1. Joerg says:

    Totally OT but I was wondering … when, after one of the killers of Damilola Taylor has turned out to be muslim, will the BBC bring us full coverage of the trial against Mr. Jihad? Remember the effort they put into making us believe it was a “racially motivated murder”:

    It probably was but not in the “racist” way the BBC tried to construe it.


  2. Robert Church says:

    This instance of advertising for Casanova advert is out of order but I have to completely disagree with you about the BBC idents.

    There are perhaps a few too many but they are nowhere near as irritating as *BUY CILLIT BANG!* and *CONFUSED.COM!*, the kind of adverts you see on ITV.

    Finally, it’s just frankly barmy to say that the BBC should use these adverts to support their channel, and then instantly invalidate the business model by suggesting we can skip the adverts anyway! Oh no, I remember – technology will just filter out the “crap” ones… Rubbish


  3. Andrew Paterson says:

    Does anyone else find the BBC’s complaints/NewsWatch page really annoying in that it seems to believe that the BBC can simply do no wrong?

    No matter what complaints/volume they receive they seem to immediately release a statement negating the complaints and trying to explain the issue away. Never is their any acknowledgment of any mis-judement on their part. Exasperating!


  4. Cockney says:

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens as and when the anti-advert technology becomes widely available. Presumably this will suppress the rates advertisers are prepared to pay as decreasing amounts of viewers are exposed to their ad agencies’ creations. I’d imagine this will result in more ‘product placement’, a greater number of ad breaks or less investment in quality programming none of which sounds particularly appealing.


  5. Richard says:

    Out in Japan, NHK, which operates to a similar system to that of the BBC has seen mass refusal (113,000+) to pay the licence because of a recent scandal*.

    NHK is actually modelled on the BBC apparently, but has retained its original character and I can imagine represents what the BBC did decades ago. Highly staid programming, zoomed in images of flowers, documentaries and fairly decent, though rather overly Japanese oriented news. Much of what the BBC does is actually quite decent and for foreigners its news is quite lively and informative. It really is the editorialising and opinion that lets them down.



  6. the_camp_commandant says:


    I don’t know why you’re so irritated by the ads on ITV. You can choose not to watch ITV, thus costing it advertising revenue. You cannot do the same to the BBC, which extorts its poll tax from you regardless.


  7. steve says:

    The worst example of the BBC advertising itself has surely been those adverts plugging the licence fee that end up with message “and all this is possible because of the unique way that the BBC is funded”. This is like allowing the Inland Revenue to run adverts campaigning for higher income tax.
    And, on the matter of the amount of time wasted betwen programmes, what about the overly long title sequences? Who cares what the name of the rostrum cameraman or whoever is?


  8. Joe N. says:

    One thing I always loved about the ubiquitous balloon graphic used on the news is the agregiously overstated size of Europe in reference to the planet.


  9. the_camp_commandant says:


    Good point about all those useless ego-massaging credits that nobody reads or cares about. I don’t know why they can’t just tag a URL onto the end of the programme, and list the credits there.


  10. Mike Eagling says:

    Drifting yet further off topic…

    Here’s “proof” you shouldn’t trust the advertising industry. Remember in the Cillit BANG! advert when “Barry Scott” cleans coins in Cillit BANG! and shows how sparkly-clean they become?

    Cillit BANG! should not be used to clean copper.

    Students, eh?


  11. Susan says:

    Yes, Joerg, I’ve noticed how little Damilola Taylor’s stock has sunk like a stone at the Beeb now that his killers have been discovered to be of the “wrong” ethnic background.

    When I started reading the Beeb online about a year and a half ago, his angelic little face seemed to peek out at me every time I logged on.

    How times have changed!


  12. Pete_London says:


    Those idents have irritated me since I first saw them. As you say, they replaced some beautiful shots of British scenery. What the bloody hell a Masai doing the pogo has got to do with Britain is anyone’s guess. But then that’s the point; these scenes are ‘urban’, ‘funky’, ‘edgy’ and ‘multiculti’. In other words, designed exactly to get on my tits. Another two fingered salute to the people who pay their wages.


  13. steve jones says:

    > what about the overly long title
    > sequences? Who cares what the name
    > of the rostrum cameraman or whoever
    > is?

    people who liked the camera work, people who might hire that cameraperson, the cameraperson themeselves, future film/ TV historians, other production companies, the inland revenue, etc etc

    what a strange thing to moan about. are you equally against:

    a) book covers and credits
    b) record/ CD sleeve notes
    c) established practice in every TV station in the entire world?


  14. JohninLondon says:

    There seem to be about a dozen of those “idents” – the stupid red people prancing around. At about half a mill per shoot, that’s another £5 million or so down the chute.

    It is so easy to spend other people’s money.


  15. Lurker says:

    Ive not got it myself but Ive heard some people with Tivo havnt watched a single ad in years. Theres no filtering out the “crap”, just no ads period. Not very promising for the ad industry.


  16. anon says:

    Cast away was already a full length advert for FedEx. Is the shocking product placement for little reason at all somehow less annoying?


  17. Trev Miller says:

    Well done for raising theses issues!

    I am increasingly irritated by the amount of self-promotional adverts the BBC screen between programs. I used to turn on at 10.30pm to watch Newsnight, now they do a 2 minute- plus ad break before the program starts.

    Where I live on the south coast (55miles south of London) we cannot receive any BBC digital channels, so it is even more irritating to suffer these ads. We had to install Sky to get access.

    The fact that the TV licence fee is set to rise by more than the rate of inflation is just another two-fingered salute to the licence payer.


  18. Trev Miller says:

    I Wrote to the BBC and got this reply:

    Thank you for your recent e-mail.

    I understand that you feel there are too many trails on BBC Television, particularly for digital.

    The BBC is extremely conscious of how its programme junctions appear to viewers and our task is to inform audiences about the variety of programmes and services available to them without irritating them. To this end we continually commission research with all sectors of licence payers to gather their feedback on such issues. To date our research has found that viewers do not consider that we run too many messages but indeed find all elements of the junction, including continuity announcements and menus alongside the trails, of great benefit in their desire to both understand what services the BBC has to offer and to navigate themselves around the immediate schedule. It is also worth pointing out that the amount of promotional airtime available has not actually increased but marginally declined over time.

    Additionally, the BBC is committed to supporting digital television and it is essential that we inform audiences about the newer services the licence fee funds. Our audience research continues to inform us that people are accustomed to receiving digital cross promotions across all television networks and we have very little evidence that viewers are irritated by them.

    So the BBC have carried out research and have concluded that we like don’t mind ads because we are accustomed to them ?? Utter Rubbish !