Ofcom’s ‘P’ for product placement

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has unveiled the logo that licensed TV channels must use to signal to viewers when a UK-produced programme contains product placement. The logo must appear for three seconds at the start and end of programmes, and after any advertising breaks.

Broadcasters will be allowed to adapt slightly the logo, according to Ofcom guidelines, to enable use on either dark or light backgrounds.

Product placement will be allowed in UK television programmes for the first time from 28 February 2011. This follows the Government’s decision to allow product placement in UK TV programmes, as a result of changes to European broadcasting legislation.

The requirement to signal it in UK-produced programmes is set out in law, and will be reflected in Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code.

Ofcom is initiating an information campaign to coincide with the relaxation of the Code, which will see TV channels will run on-screen information campaigns to let viewers know that some UK-made programmes will soon be able to include product placement, and to explain the meaning of the product placement logo.

Product placement will be allowed in films (including dramas and documentaries), TV series (including soaps), entertainment shows and sports programmes. But it will be prohibited in all children’s and news programmes and in current affairs, consumer advice and religious programmes made for UK audiences

In terms of specific products, European legislation bans the product placement of tobacco (and related products) and prescription only medicines in all programmes. In addition, UK legislation bans the product placement of alcohol, gambling, foods or drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, all other medicines and baby milk in programmes made for UK audiences. These prohibitions are reflected in Ofcom’s new rules. Ofcom has also prohibited the product placement of products and services that cannot be advertised on television, such as weapons and escort agencies.

In line with EU and UK legislation, the rules 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.

Placed products and services cannot be promoted or endorsed, or be featured in an unduly prominent way within programmes.

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