Product placement gets EC go-ahead

Product placement in television shows has been rubber-stamped by the European Commission, which announced the decision in its updated Television Without Frontiers directive this week.

The refreshed rules also cover online and mobile distribution for the first time, as European policymakers take into account the rapid rise of content viewed through new media. But private e-mails, online editions of newspapers and magazines, and websites providing primarily audio or radio streaming remain exempt.

Media commissioner Viviane Reding confirmed a relaxation of product placement guidelines and an extension of rules governing audiovisual content to online and mobile distribution.

Product placement will be permitted within programmes, provided broadcasters clearly flag it up with a pre-show declaration to prevent “surreptitious advertising”. It remains banned from news, current affairs and children’s shows.

The current rule requiring 20 minutes between ad breaks for most output is to be scrapped, although the existing ceiling of 12 advertising minutes per hour is to be maintained.

Moves to extend the directive to online and mobile distribution have caused controversy, with many advertisers worried about the effects. The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers warned that the proposed rules could stifle internet content (MW September 22).

However, Reding says the new rules will create multi-media opportunities, boosting competition and consumer choice, while protecting children and promoting cultural diversity.

“Existing rules, made redundant by technological and market developments, must be abolished,” she claims.

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