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By Published on .

Clutter in prime-time broadcast network programming jumped by 25 seconds in 1998, according to an annual report by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Association of National Advertisers.

Non-programming time at ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox came in at an average 15:44 minutes per hour, as the networks took additional time for their own promotions and as the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's anti-drug ad buy prompted them to run more public service announcements.

The study defines clutter as "all non-programming content, including commercial time, public service announcements, public service promotions, promotions aired by the networks and program credits not running over the program."

Some non-prime-time periods had even higher clutter levels, including 16:53 minutes per hour for early morning and 20:01 for daytime.


Only late-night TV posted a significant decrease, dropping 35 seconds, to 18:13 minutes of non-program time an hour.

For their tabulations, the two ad groups survey network and syndication during a week in May and a week in November.

"For the first time, ABC and NBC have more clutter than Fox, setting network highs of 16:27 and 16:05, respectively, in 1998. CBS, although with increased clutter, remains the least cluttered network, with 14:44 in prime time," the study said. Fox in November was at 15:37, actually down from a year earlier.

On the cable side, networks were measured during one day in May and one day in November. MTV had the most clutter in May at 18:07, while E! Entertainment Television and TBS were tied at 18:01 in November.

In syndication, measured for two days in May and two in November, "Wheel of Fortune," distributed by King World, was the most cluttered program, with 20:39 minutes in May and 20:27 minutes in November.


As expected, the report showed an increase in PSAs this year, with ABC having the biggest increase in such messages.

The increase mostly is a result of the anti-drug campaign, in which TV stations and networks were asked to air one ad without charge for every ad slot paid for by the White House campaign. Some broadcasters, however, are providing programming or other benefits instead of PSA time.

Ad groups, while praising the increase in public service ads, called for clear disclosure to advertisers of non-program time and clear limits on promos within each show.

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