Monitoring of advertising
Private television and radio broadcasters are financed primarily by advertising. The same goes for successful content providers on social networks like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Content providers often collaborate with businesses, leading to product placement and promotional messages in their videos and posts. This is a form of influencer marketing.
Advertising is any audio or visual message about a product or a service with the goal of stimulating revenue. The purpose of advertising is to make viewers aware of the product or service and motivate them to purchase it.
In addition to classic advertisements, advertising also includes surreptitious adverts, product placement, split-screen adverts, infomercials, teleshopping, and affiliate links. Messages about a broadcaster’s own products or services are also considered to be advertising.
Messages concerning accompanying materials for a given broadcast (e.g. the soundtrack of the broadcast on CD), are not counted as advertising, nor are references to sponsors.
The primary purpose of sponsorship is to promote the image of a company; it is subject to its own set of regulations.
The dissemination of advertising in broadcast media is subject to certain requirements, and the same applies to Internet advertising. The goal of these conditions placed on advertising is to prevent third parties from exercising too much influence over a programme (editorial independence), to provide protection for the audio-visual work in question as well as for the public (consumers and/or viewers), and to protect minors from unauthorised advertising on the Internet.
Separation and identification of advertising
Advertising must be easily recognisable and separated from editorial content. In broadcast media, it must be distinguished from editorial content using audio or visual means. Advertising is most easily recognisable when it is clearly identified as such.
In the area of social media, the guidelines from the Media Authorities (See above) contain handy tips on what is considered acceptable when it comes to identifying advertisements.
Duration of advertising
The amount of broadcast time spent on television adverts within a given hour must not exceed 20%, meaning that up to 12 minutes of adverts may be aired per hour.
Films, made-for-TV films, and news broadcasts may only be interrupted once within a 30-minute period to allow for television advertising.
TV series, serials, and documentary films are an exception to this rule, and may (taking into account the cohesiveness of a given programme) be interrupted more frequently. Children’s programmes may not be interrupted by advertising.
Content requirements for advertisements
Advertisements and teleshopping programmes may not discriminate or offend against human dignity, nor may they be misleading or prejudicial to the interests of consumers. In order to maintain the separation between advertising and programming, advertisers are prohibited from exercising influence over the programme or influencing its content.
For online media services like YouTube, etc. there are no limits placed on duration and number of advertisements.
No advertising is allowed for sports betting, gambling, tobacco products, or pharmaceutical products on television or online media.
Advertisements of a political, ideological, or religious nature are not allowed on television or similar visual media platforms. Political parties standing for election to the Bundestag and/or the European Parliament are, however, granted an adequate amount of air time on nationally licensed media outlets.
In addition to licensing, another major focus of activity for the Media Authorities is the supervision of licensed television and radio programmes. This supervisory role extends to audio-visual online media and social media as well, in which case the responsible body is always the media authority of the state where the company providing Internet content is headquartered.
The Media Authorities monitor content for compliance with legal regulations and have the power to initiate oversight proceedings against violators and impose fines. Most of these regulations come from the Interstate Broadcasting Agreement (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag), which is itself heavily influenced by European Union law, in particular the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).
The Media Authorities often exercise this supervisory function in the form of random checks, but it’s also important to hear from the public – you are welcome to file a complaint with the Media Authorities by filling out the form available at programmbeschwerde.de; the relevant media authority will review your complaint and follow up on any violations they detect.