U.K. culture secretary nixes product placement

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Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has blocked the introduction of product placement in the U.K., a move described as "perverse" by commercial broadcaster ITV and "astonishing" by Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

Wednesday's decision to ban product placement — at least until a further review in two years — might be challenged, according to ITV executive chairman Michael Grade, who is seeking to overturn it through judicial review.

Burnham said he has "very serious concerns about blurring the boundaries between advertising and editorial content," adding that the economic benefits of product placement are unclear.

"I have listened carefully to the arguments on both sides around product placement and concluded that it should not be permitted in programs made for this country," Burnham said. "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."

Leading U.K. broadcasters have lobbied for years for a relaxation of product-placement rules and believe it could account for millions of pounds a year in new revenue. (partialdiff)
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