STV has been rapped by television watchdogs for a “serious” breach of broadcasting rules after it repeatedly screened too many advertisements.
The channel broke strict broadcasting regulations when it exceeded the time limit for ad breaks on 85 occasions during a 14-month period.
It is the third time in less than two years that the broadcaster has been found in breach of the three-minute, 50 seconds limit.
Following an investigation, media regulator Ofcom found STV had broken the rules and said staff at the Glasgow-based station were not adequately trained.
STV reported itself to Ofcom when it discovered the breaks had run over, but blamed a dispute with ITV over the sponsorship of programmes.
Bosses said they did not always screen sponsorship slots for network shows such as Jeremy Kyle and were forced to fill in the gaps with “non-commercial” trailers and promotions.
They argued that only ITV could change the length of time of ad breaks on the programmes, but Ofcom found it was STV’s responsibility and said its actions amounted to a “serious compliance failing”.
Ofcom said: “In this case, STV had filled the gaps in its centre break schedules, occurring when ITV1 entered into sponsorship arrangements and broadcast sponsorship credits and STV did not, with trailers and station promotions. This caused the durations of the centre breaks on STV to breach rule 14 of the Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising [Costa] on 85 occasions.
“The total number of breaches, when considered together with the significant period of time over which they occurred, indicated to Ofcom a serious compliance failing.
“Moreover, Ofcom was concerned that an incorrect remedy had been applied when the alignment issue was first identified, and continued to be applied for some considerable time.”
The breaches occurred during 36 programmes shown on the channel between January 2010 and March this year.
In its response, STV said it had investigated and had found the incidents were caused “inadvertently” because of the change to sponsorship arrangements in January 2010.
Staff had been given refresher training and the channel had taken steps to ensure sponsorship slots were carried on ITV1 shows.
The broadcaster also said because “only station promotion material was used to fill the sponsorship credit gaps, none of the 85 instances contained any additional commercial content, and the commercial minutage that it transmitted across each hour and each day remained compliant with Costa”.
An STV spokeswoman said: “We accept Ofcom’s ruling on what is acknowledged as a very complex issue which STV spotted and flagged to the regulator.
“At no point did STV transmit more than the permitted level of commercials. STV has a rigorous and ongoing training programme for staff.”