LONDON: The laws governing the use of product placement on television and radio are set to be relaxed in the UK, after the publication of proposals from Ofcom, the communications industry watchdog.

The regulator suggested that a standardised symbol should be displayed at the start of any TV programme where brand owners have formally requested that their goods appear during the show.

Its new consultation document also proposes that broadcasters run a pre-roll out audience awareness campaign to ensure that viewers understand how the new system works.

However, the organisation also supported banning paid-for references to products in news bulletins, content for children's shows, material related to current or consumer affairs and religious programming.

Companies in the tobacco, alcohol and gambling industries are also likely to be prohibited from leveraging this marketing tool.

Food or drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar are also set to face a similar limitation on their activity in this area, as are medicines and baby milk.

Ofcom also forwarded the view that goods and services that cannot be advertised on television, such as weapons, be subject to the same restrictions.

Among the options being considered for radio are allowing stations more freedom to include paid-for commercial references in their programming, as long as listeners are duly informed.

The main motivation for the revision of the existing more stringent regulations is the recognition that commercial broadcasters need new revenue streams as adspend continues to come under pressure.

But Ofcom remained clear that the freeing-up of its strict rules, made possible by a European Union directive, must be balanced by the need to protect audiences and ensure transparency.

The revised rules for TV and radio will be issued at the end of 2010, following the consultation period, and will be incorporated into Ofcom's Broadcasting Code.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff