Virginia Matthews complains about the appearance of identifiable branded products in EastEnders and other BBC entertainment programmes in “Get rid of the silly pluggers” (MW March 10). She suggests that their use results from arrangements with manufacturers to provide advertising through the back-door. I would like to assure Matthews that product placement – the inclusion of items in return for payment – is expressly forbidden by BBC Television.
As she says, the days of the taped-over brand name have long since passed. An increasingly sophisticated audience, living in an increasingly commercially-aware world, expects realism in its programmes. The incidental inclusion of a wide and changing range of commercial products is one way to meet that expectation. Nevertheless, our policy remains that branded goods should not appear in programmes unless proposals to include them pass the strict test of editorial need. Even when need has been established, the choice of items is made judiciously and independently by the production teams.
The BBC is alert to the continuing responsibility to maintain a balance which allows realism but avoids promotion.
Head of policy management