Finland's commercial radio stations will soon be able to include as much advertising content as they see fit in their broadcasts. New regulations that will come into effect in June will remove the former restriction that limited ad time to a maximum of one-fifth of total air time. The new rules still require the stations to make it easy for listeners to distinguish the ads from the rest of the programme content, however.
Finns listen to an average of 3 hours of radio programming daily, according to Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications. The ministry says that the objective of the new more liberalized rules is to improve radio stations' earnings ability and give them more leeway in terms of content placement.
The legal reform is part of a government-led drive to dismantle operational norms in several areas.
No major increase in ads expected
CEO Stefan Möller from the RadioMedia umbrella radio group in Finland doesn't expect the amount of ads on commercial radio stations to jump anytime soon. He says that few stations have enough ads to meet the 20 percent limit even now.
"The amount of ads and their placement are dictated to some extent by the radio format in question. Summer is also a more popular advertising season in terms of attracting ads," he says.
Möller says radio stations in Finland study the amount of ads listeners can take before they grow weary of them very carefully.
Some stations might go too far
Tampere University radio researcher Marko Ala-Fossi predicts two possible consequences of the change.
"Some radio stations will overdo it and sell so many ads that they will drive away listeners," he says.
The other is that advertising costs may fall, as Finland's over 100 commercial radio stations can now sell more air time to advertisers.
Ala-Fossi says some stations may chose to build a profile around lesser ads. He cites Fox TV in the US, which has made the decision to drop its ad time to two minutes per hour by the year 2020.
More likely to switch channels?
He also mentions that listener measurements indicate that commercial radio listeners are more likely to channel surf than their equivalents who tend to listen to radio channels run by Finland's public broadcaster Yle.
"It will be interesting to see how the removal of the advertising limits will affect radio listener demographics and channel-surfing behaviour," he says.
In general, the amount of money companies in Finland are using on radio advertising is in decline. Last year, 64 million euros of ads were purchased for radio, which accounts for just five percent of all media advertising in the country.