Commercial broadcasting

Commercial broadcasting (also called private broadcasting) is the broadcasting of television programs and radio programming by privately owned corporate media, as opposed to state sponsorship. It was the United States′ first model of radio (and later television) during the 1920s, in contrast with the public television model in Europe during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, which prevailed worldwide, except in the United States and Brazil, until the 1980s.



Commercial broadcasting is primarily based on the practice of airing radio advertisements and television advertisements for profit. This is in contrast to public broadcasting, which receives government subsidies and usually does not have paid advertising interrupting the show. During pledge drives, some public broadcasters will interrupt shows to ask for donations.

In the United States, non-commercial educational (NCE) television and radio exists in the form of community radio; however, premium cable services such as HBO and Showtime generally operate solely on subscriber fees and do not sell advertising. This is also the case for the portions of the two major satellite radio systems that are produced in-house (mainly music programming).

Radio broadcasting originally began without paid commercials. As time went on, however, advertisements seemed less objectionable to both the public and government regulators and became more common. While commercial broadcasting was unexpected in radio, in television it was planned due to commercial radio's success. Television began with commercial sponsorship and later transformed to paid commercial time. When problems arose over patents and corporate marketing strategies, regulatory decisions were made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to control commercial broadcasting.[1]

Commercial broadcasting overlaps with paid services such as cable television, radio and satellite television. Such services are generally partially or wholly paid for by local subscribers and is known as leased access. Other programming (particularly on cable television) is produced by companies operating in much the same manner as advertising-funded commercial broadcasters, and they (and often the local cable provider) sell commercial time in a similar manner.

The FCC's interest in program control began with the chain-broadcasting investigation of the late 1930s, culminating in the "Blue Book" of 1946, Public Service Responsibility For Broadcast Licensees. The Blue Book differentiated between mass-appeal sponsored programs and unsponsored "sustaining" programs offered by the radio networks. This sustained programming, according to the Blue Book, had five features serving the public interest:

  • Sustaining programs balanced the broadcast schedule, supplementing the soap operas and popular-music programs receiving the highest ratings and most commercial sponsors
  • They allowed for the broadcast of programs which, by their controversial or sensitive nature, were unsuitable for sponsorship
  • They supplied cultural programming for smaller audiences
  • They provided limited broadcast access for non-profit and civic organizations
  • They made possible artistic and dramatic experimentation, shielded from the pressures of short-run rating and commercial considerations of a sponsor.[1]

Commercial time has increased 31 seconds per hour for all prime time television shows. For example, ABC has increased from 9 minutes and 26 seconds to 11 minutes and 26 seconds.[2]


Programming on commercial stations is more ratings-driven—particularly during periods such as sweeps in the US and some Latin American countries.

Other factors

Commercial broadcasting (especially free-to-air) is sometimes controversial. One reason is a perceived lack of quality and risk in the programming (to which more conservative elements respond that it is too risqué much of the time), an excessively high ratio of advertising to program time (especially on children's television), and a perceived failure to serve the local interest due to media consolidation. Commercial radio (in particular) is criticized for a perceived homogeneity in programming, covert politically motivated censorship of content, and a desire to cut costs at the expense of a station's identifiable personality. Politics is a major force in media criticism, with an ongoing debate (especially in the United States) as to what moral standards – if any – are to be applied to the airwaves.

Global commercial broadcasting


Commercial broadcasting is the dominant type of broadcasting in the United States and most of Latin America. "The US commercial system resulted from a carefully crafted cooperation endeavor by national corporations and federal regulators."[3]

The best-known commercial broadcasters in the United States today are the ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC television networks, based in the United States. Major cable television in the United States operators include Comcast, Charter Communications and Cox Communications. Direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) services include DirecTV and Dish Network.

In an hour of broadcast time on a commercial broadcasting station, 10 to 20 minutes are typically devoted to advertising. Advertisers pay a certain amount of money to air their commercials, usually based upon program ratings or the audience measurement of a station or network. This makes commercial broadcasters more accountable to advertisers than public broadcasting, a disadvantage of commercial radio and television.


In Europe, commercial broadcasting coexists with public broadcasting (where programming is largely funded by broadcast receiver licences, public donations or government grants).

In the UK, Sky UK is available and WorldSpace Satellite Radio was available.


The best-known commercial services in Asia are one of the South Korean radio and television network SBS along with one of the Hong Kong television network TVB.

List of major commercial broadcasters

Contemporary hit radio in bold.






English language
French language



Costa Rica


El Salvador

  • Telecorporación Salvadoreña
  • Canal 12
  • Megavisión


  • Canal 3




  • Telemetro
  • TVN


  • Paravisión
  • SNT
  • Trece
  • Unicanal


United States

English language
Spanish language



  • Venevisión
  • Televen
  • Globovisión
  • Meridiano Televisión
  • Vale TV





  • PT Media Nusantara Citra Tbk (MNC Media)
    • PT Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia (RCTI)
    • PT MNC Televisi Indonesia (MNCTV)
    • PT Global Informasi Bermutu (GTV)
    • PT MNC Televisi Network (iNews)
    • PT MNC Networks (MNC Radio Networks)
      • PT Radio Trijaya Shakti (MNC Trijaya FM)
      • PT Radio Suara Monalisa (RDI)
      • PT Radio Arief Rahman Hakim (Global Radio)
      • PT Radio Sabda Sosok Sohor (V Radio)
  • PT Elang Mahkota Teknologi Tbk (Emtek)
  • PT Media Group
  • PT Trans Media Corpora (Trans Media)
  • PT Visi Media Asia Tbk (VIVA)
    • PT Intermedia Capital Tbk (IMDA)
      • PT Cakrawala Andalas Televisi (ANTV)
    • PT Lativi Media Karya (tvOne)
    • PT Viva Televisi Olahraga Indonesia (SportOne)
  • PT Indika Inti Mandiri (Indika Group)
  • PT KG Media
    • PT Cipta Megaswara Televisi (Kompas TV)
    • PT Gramedia Media Nusantara (Gramedia TV)
    • PT Komando Media Televisi (KTV)
    • PT Magentic Network Indonesia (KG Radio Network)
      • PT Radio Sonora (Sonora FM)
      • PT Radio Safari Bina Budaya (Motion Radio)
      • PT Radio Smart Media Utama (Smart FM)
  • PT Rajawali Corpora
    • PT Metropolitan Televisindo (RTV)
  • PT Jawa Pos Group
    • PT Jawa Pos Multimedia (JPM)
  • PT Mayapada Group (Mayapada)
    • PT Banten Media Global Televisi (MYTV)
  • PT NT Corp
    • PT Nusantara Media Mandiri (Nusantara TV)
  • PT BeritaSatu Media Holdings
  • PT MRA Media
    • PT Media Network Wahana (MNI)
      • PT Radio Antarnusa Djaja (Hard Rock FM)
      • PT Radio Mustika Abadi (I-Radio)
      • PT Radio Muara Abdinusa (Cosmopolitan FM)
      • PT Pesona Gita Anindita (Brava Radio)
  • PT Mahaka Media
    • PT Danapati Abinaya Investama (JakTV)
    • Mahaka Radio Integra
      • PT Radio Attahiriyah (Gen FM)
      • PT Radio Suara Irama Indah (Jak FM)
      • PT Radio Merpati Darmawangsa (Hot FM)
      • PT Radio Ramako Jaya Raya (Most FM)
      • PT Radio Mustang Utama (Mustang FM)
      • PT Radio Kirana Insan Suara (Kis FM)
      • Noice
      • Rayya Channel
  • PT Masima Radio Network
    • PT Radio Prambors (Prambors)
    • PT Radio Kayu Manis (FeMale Radio)
    • PT Radio Delta Insani (Delta FM)
    • PT Radio Terik Matahari Bahana Pembangunan (Bahana FM)
  • PT Tiga Visi Utama (MPG Media)
    • MPG Media Network
      • PT Radio Bahana Sanada Dunia (Smooth FM)
      • PT Radio Dengan Anda Bahagia (ZFM)
  • PT Elshinta Media Group
    • PT Elshinta Jakarta Televisi (Elshinta TV)
    • PT Radio Elshinta (Elshinta Radio Network)
    • Fit Radio

Japan (key stations)


Philippines (major commercial station)


South Korea


  • Taiwan Television (臺灣電視公司 "台視"|TTV)
    • TTV Main Channel
    • TTV Finance
    • TTV Variety
    • TTV News Channel
  • China Television (中國電視公司 "中視"|CTV)
    • CTV Main Channel
    • CTV News Channel
    • CTV Classic
    • CTV Bravo
  • Chinese Television System (中華電視公司 "華視"|CTS)
    • CTS Main Channel
    • CTS News and Info
  • Formosa Television (民間全民電視公司 "民視"|FTV)




Republic of Ireland

United Kingdom









New Zealand

See also


  1. ^ a b Boddy, William. Fifties Television: the Industry and Its Critics. University of Illinois Press, 1992.ISBN 978-0-252-06299-5
  2. ^ Fleming, Heather (31 March 1997). "PSA slice shrinks as commercial pie grows". Broadcasting & Cable. New York. 127 (13): 19–22.ProQuest 225346067.
  3. ^ Hilmes, Michele (2004). "The Origins of the Commercial Broadcasting System of the United States". Jahrbuch Medien und Geschichte. 4: 73–81.

External links

  • Video (audio) interview with Ray Fitzwalter on commercial TV in Britain, The rise and fall of ITV, Frontline Club, London, May 2008.

Media files used on this page