New UK Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw is expected to announce later this week a three-month consultation process over lifting the ban on product placement in television programming in the UK. The move responds to plunging advertising revenues in the broadcast sector, and is a reversal of position from that of the previous Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham. Expect debate over the need to find alternative revenue sources for programming, and the erosion of programming quality, creative independence, and the public’s trust due to the blurring of advertising messaging and content.
Under current rules, programmes can show products used as props, but cannot take payment from manufacturers in exchange for the placement. If the ban is lifted, reports anticipate that independent commercial broadcasters will be allowed to receive payment for displaying commercial products during shows, but that the BBC will still be banned. Product placement would continue to be banned in children’s programming on all networks.
In Canada, the CRTC considered this issue in 2007. At the urging of broadcasters it removed non-traditional advertising (product placement, virtual ads) from the calculation of the maximum number of advertising minutes that may be broadcast. The CRTC stated that “the Commission considers it essential that OTA broadcasters have the flexibility to maximize advertising revenues to respond to the negative impact of audience fragmentation.”