This has already been highlighted in the “Need To Know” section, but I had to link to it from this blog as well:
The Ottawa Citizen reports that, as of Sept. 1, the CRTC has given the networks carte blanche to run as many commercials as they want—a major change from the old regime, which capped the amount of time that could be devoted to ads at fifteen minutes per hour.
There’s nothing much I can say about this that I haven’t said before. The U.S. has definitively proven that once networks can air as many commercials as they want, they will find ways to air more commercials and less content every single year. TV running times of U.S. shows were surprisingly consistent from the ’50s up until the early ’80s; they shrank a bit, but even as late as the mid-’80s there were still some half-hour shows with 25 minutes of content. The FCC changed the rules in the ’80s, one of several rules changes made during the Reagan administration. (Most famously, they finally made it possible for shows to double as plugs for products, which is how we got all those animated cartoons based on toys.) Once there was no cap on the amount of commercial time, the times started contracting rapidly and have continued to contract: the 23-minute sitcom seemed really short when it was introduced in the late ’80s, but then came 22, and 21, and… well, I’ve been over this before.
Also, as others have pointed out, the death of the late night movie (where many people learned about non-current movies) was also caused by the removal of advertising restrictions, because broadcasters replaced the movies with infomercials.
Now, whether there should be restrictions on the amount of allowable commercial time, or how effective they are, is a somewhat different question; I’m just noting that what we should expect to see is Significant Shrinkage ™ in the content-to-commercials ratio (and most shows in Canada don’t exactly have long running times, even now). That’s what happened in the States: show lengths shrank much more in the last 25 years than they did in the 50+ years preceding the rule change
But on the bright side, without longer commercial breaks, we would never have had stuff like this.