U.K. gov't changes tack on product placement

Alcohol, gambling, junk food brands to be excluded

LONDON -- Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has backed down on plans to introduce product placement here -- banning junk food, alcohol and gaming brand promotion -- after pressure from the Health secretary and former Culture secretary Andy Burnham.

The move will dismay commercial broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 4, who had hoped for product placement to deliver upwards of £140 million ($221 million) a year in additional revenue.

Burnham, whose total ban on product placement was overturned when Bradshaw succeeded him as the minister responsible for broadcasting policy, has warned that product placement could lead to obesity.

"Following a consultation with the Department of Health I propose to ban product placement in the following areas; alcoholic drinks, high fat, salt and sugar foods, gambling, smoking accessories and baby food," Bradshaw said in a statement.

The restrictions mean that brands including Coca Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds and Budweiser will not be allowed to appear on screen during U.K.-produced programming, although they will continue to appear in imported shows.

Burnham, who moved from the Culture department to takeover the Health ministry in September 2009, had strenuously opposed industry calls to allow product placement, saying it would blur editorial guidelines and "contaminate" program content.