ITV may take Government to court over product placement ban

ITV is considering mounting a legal challenge against the Governments decision to ban product placement appearing in UK programs, announced today by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham (March 11).

The broadcaster has called Burnham’s decision to rule aga…

ITV is considering mounting a legal challenge against the Government’s decision to ban product placement appearing in UK programs, announced today by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham (March 11).

The broadcaster has called Burnham’s decision to rule against products appearing in UK originated programming “perverse” and is consulting lawyers about lodging a judicial review.

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade says the move is “baffling” as UK viewers are already exposed to product placement in foreign made programs. He said the move prevents domestic producers and broad casters “competing on a level playing field.”

Burnham’s announcement forms part of the government’s response to the EU Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive which calls for product placement to be prohibited aside from nationally determined exemptions, and follows a three month consultation.

ITV last week reported a 41% slump in profits to £167m as it is hit by falling advertising as a result of the recession.

In a statement Grade says: “Given the extraordinary economic pressures ITV, and others, face, we can’t let a decision like this simply go through without trying to fight it. We are considering our next steps and I am consulting my legal team as to whether we have a strong case for judicial review.

“I shall also be writing to the Chief Executive of Ofcom to ask what measures he intends to introduce to ‘protect’ viewers from those programmes and films that already contain product placement and which have been broadcast on British television for many years. The Government should at least be taking a consistent position,” he adds.

However Burnham says he will not budge: ‘“I am well aware that a number of commercial broadcasters are facing difficult economic times and I will continue to work with the industry to explore ways we can support them, but my preference is to consider all other avenues before allowing product placement.”

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