Ofcom greenlights ad-sponsored channels

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LONDON -- U.K. media regulator Ofcom has given the go-ahead for advertisers to sponsor entire channels and radio stations for the first time, the regulator said Wednesday.

The move comes as U.K. broadcasters await a European Union ruling on whether product placement will be allowed on television screens here.

Ofcom's move is unlikely to have a significant impact on the major commercial broadcast channels here such as ITV, Five and digital broadcasters E4 and Sky One. But it will open the way for new channels to be launched by advertisers or brands.

Broadcasters will not be permitted to name channels after sponsors, and rules forbidding the sponsorship of news programs will remain in place. Alcohol brands also will be prohibited from sponsoring children's channels.

Since 1991, U.K. screens have allowed individual programs to be sponsored. ITV's most popular show, "Coronation Street," for example, has had a long running deal with chocolate manufacturer Cadburys.
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