Ofcom Publishes Product Placement Plans

The broadcast regulator has published proposed new rules to allow product placement on TV.

Ofcom also proposing to liberalise the rules on paid-for references to brands and products in radio programmes.

These followed the Government's decision earlier this year to allow product placement on TV in the UK, as a result of changes to EU legislation.

Both sets of proposals are designed to enable commercial broadcasters to access new revenue streams where possible, whilst protecting audiences.

The proposals include restrictions on the types of products that can be placed, the details of the types of programmes in which products can be placed and the way in which products can be included in programmes.

The proposals for TV also include a requirement for broadcasters to let viewers know which UK-produced programmes contain product placement through the use of an on-air symbol at the start and end of programmes.

In its radio proposals, Ofcom is consulting on options that include loosening the regulations on paid-for references to products and services in programmes. The proposals set out to protect listeners by making sure that these commercial arrangements are clear and transparent.

Following consultation, revised rules for TV and radio will be issued at the end of 2010 and incorporated in Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, the rulebook for the broadcasting industry.

Product placement on TV

In accordance with the legislation, product placement will be allowed in films, TV series, entertainment shows and sports programmes.

But under the law it is banned in all children's and news programmes and in UK-produced current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programmes.

Product placement of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, foods or drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, medicines and baby milk is also banned.

Separately, Ofcom is proposing to prohibit the paid-for placement of products and services that cannot be advertised on television, such as weapons. The proposed rules also clarify that product placement must not impair broadcasters' editorial independence – e.g. storylines in programmes cannot be paid for.

A broadcaster could not, for instance, accept payment from an insurance company to feature a storyline about a house burning down and the homeowner not being insured.

European legislation also requires that placed products and services cannot be promoted or endorsed, or be featured in an unduly prominent way within programmes.

Ofcom is also proposing to liberalise some of the rules relating to TV sponsorship.

Separate proposals explore possible changes in the regulation of paid-for references to brands and products in radio programmes. The only commercial references currently allowed are sponsorship credits (broadcast around and during sponsored programming) and spot advertisements (broadcast in commercial breaks).

Among the options being consulted on are proposals to allow radio stations more opportunities to include paid-for commercial references in programming.

These would allow, for example, presenters to promote commercial products in their programmes, as long as it is clear to listeners that these promotions have been paid for.

Ofcom is proposing to prohibit paid-for references to brands and products within news programmes and programmes primarily aimed at children.


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