Ofcom allows product placement on UK television

Out-Law News | 06 Jan 2011 | 5:25 pm | 1 min. read

Product placement will be allowed in UK TV programmes for the first time from 28th February. Media regulator Ofcom confirmed that paid-for references to products and services will be permitted in programmes from that date.

Ofcom published the new rules for product placement on TV (11-page / 80KB PDF) in December. They restrict the types of product that can be placed, the types of programme in which they can be placed, and how products are seen and referred to in programmes.

In a statement, the regulator said the new rules "will enable commercial broadcasters to access new sources of revenue, whilst providing protection for audiences."

Ofcom has also published a set of rules that apply to paid-for references to products in radio programmes. These rules came into force on 20th December and require that on-air references to products or brands are made clear to the audience.

The lifting of the prohibition on TV product placement follows an amendment to the Communications Act passed last April. That legislation, which followed changes to European broadcasting legislation, required Ofcom to set the rules for product placement. The new rules will be incorporated within Ofcom's Broadcasting Code, the rulebook for the broadcasting industry.

From 28th February, product placement will be allowed in films, TV series, entertainment shows and sports programmes. It will be prohibited in all children’s and news programmes and in UK-produced current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programmes. 

The product placement of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, foods or drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, medicines and baby milk is banned.

The rules provide that TV product placement "must be signalled clearly, by means of a universal logo". That must be done for a minimum of three seconds at the beginning and end of a programme and "when the programme recommences after commercial breaks". Ofcom said it will issue the new logo.

The rules also state that product placement must not impair broadcasters’ editorial independence and must always be editorially justified. "This means that programmes cannot be created or distorted so that they become vehicles for the purposes of featuring product placement," said Ofcom.

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