Product placement coming to UK TV

14 September 2009

LONDON: The rules restricting product placement on television in the UK are set to be amended, a move that would help the country's ailing commercial broadcast sector, which is suffering as advertising expenditure levels decline.

All forms of paid-for brand placement are outlawed on British networks at present, but this situation could be about to change, according to a report published in the Sunday Telegraph.

The newspaper quoted a senior government official, who said "the climate has changed and we are now ready to allow product placement in certain circumstances."

Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, is expected to launch a formal, three-month consultation process on the matter in the next week or so.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture Media and Sport said Bradshaw "has been reviewing policies across the whole of his brief, including on product placement. We will make an announcement as and when a final decision is taken."

ITV, the UK's biggest commercial broadcaster, has long campaigned for a revision of the existing rules, and welcomed the prospect of "an important new revenue stream".

"If the Government does decide to permit product placement, it will be warmly welcomed by the commercial broadcasting industry and advertisers alike," the company argued in a statement.

"New sources of revenue means better funded content – which can only be good news for viewers," it added.

According to Peter Bazalgette, of Endemol, the production company, product placement could quickly reach a value of some £100 million ($166m; €114m) a year in the UK

In contrast, a review conducted by Ofcom, the communications industry regulator, in 2005, estimated this figure would climb to a maximum £30m within five years of the ban being lifted.

Brand placement is already a feature of numerous high-profile shows in the US, and is permitted in several countries in Europe.

However, the current limitations would remain in place for the BBC, the UK's publicly-funded broadcaster, and on this form of marketing activity for programmes aimed at children.

Data sourced from AFP/Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff