U.K. eyes introduction of product placement

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LONDON -- U.K. media regulator Ofcom on Wednesday published responses to its consultation on the possible impact of a limited and controlled introduction of product placement in the U.K.

The move takes Ofcom a step closer to allowing product placement to hit British television screens should it get the go-ahead under European law.

Defined by Ofcom as "the inclusion of, or reference to, a product or service within a program in return for payment," the regulator asked interested parties to give their views on any relaxation of the rules.

Reaction is mixed, with broadcasters favoring a controlled introduction of product placement while several consumer and viewer organizations oppose it.

But should a relaxation of the rules get the green light, Ofcom said the feedback indicates there will be a need for hard and fast rules.

Viewers should be made aware of products placed in a program, Ofcom feedback said, and all product placement should be excluded from news and current affairs programming.

Also, products such as tobacco, which are already banned from advertising on television, should also be excluded from being allowed to be placed.

The feedback also says there would be a need to provide clear guidance to artists and writers on their right to refuse to endorse certain products.

Product placement is currently banned under the European Commission's Television Without Frontiers directive, which governs audio-visual content regulation in Europe. But the EC recently proposed to relax rules governing television advertising and the European Parliament and Council will soon vote on whether the ban on product placement should be lifted.
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