Government confirms legislation to allow product placement

The Government is to allow product placement on TV in a way that will “provide meaningful commercial benefits to commercial television.”

American Idol judges with Coke
American Idol judges with Coke

However, as leaked last week, the legislation will contain exceptions that will mean some advertisers cannot not take advantage of the change in the law.

In particular, placement of alcohol and food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS foods) will not be allowed along with gambling, smoking accessories, over the counter medicines and infant formula.

TV regulator Ofcom will also have to run a public consultation on the detailed changes to its code in order for Government legislation on product placement can come into effect.

The legislation will only allow placement in “cinematographic works, films and series made for television or on-demand services, sports programmes, and light entertainment programmes”.” It will not be allowed in current affairs, consumer and religious programming or in children’s programming.

The Government says that it “fully shares the concerns” that have been expressed about the potential impact of product placement on the editorial independence of broadcasters and viewers’ trust in what they see on television and believes that its proposals will safeguard these.

The legislation is being steered by Ben Bradshaw, secretary of state for culture media and sport. Consultation on the issue was opened in November and the department received 1480 responses by 8 January. Among those responding were ISBA and the British Medical Association.

Broadcasters are keen to diversify revenue streams beyond the 30 second advertising spot and hope that product placement will contribute to the coffers, although there are widely different estimates of how much product placement might contribute to the TV companies.

Bradshaw points out that every other EU member state, with the sole current exception of Denmark, has either allowed television product placement already or has expressed a firm intention to do so

The Government will lay Regulations under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, giving legal effect to the requirements of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive on TV product placement.
However, TV product placement will not become permissible iuntil the Regulations come into force and appropriate changes to the Ofcom Code have been made.

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