Government to consult over product placement

LONDON - The Government has opened a consultation into the possible introduction of product placement on TV and new rules for regulating video-on-demand services.

As part of the consultation on how the UK should implement the European Union's Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive, the Government is considering whether to allow product placement in certain circumstances.

The AVMS Directive states that all EU members must prohibit product placement, but may decide to allow more exemptions.

The DCMS said: "The Government has already said its initial view is not to change this." But added: "The consultation document however sets out the arguments for and against, and seeks views from both sides."

Culture secretary Andy Burnham said: "My instincts remain that if we were to relax the ban on product placement, we would put at risk the integrity in British programming that underpins its international reputation.

"But I'm open to hearing other views. If, as some in the industry are saying, this is a crucial step for broadcasters, then the industry must marshal strong arguments and put forward a convincing case."

The move has come despite calls from commercial broadcaster ITV to allow more flexibility around product placement.

The DCMS said that the commercial benefits of allowing product placement were not enough to warrant its introduction. Ofcom has indicated that product placement in the UK could amount to around £25-35m a year after five years.

The Government has laid out three options - to keep the Ofcom code, to allow product placement in specific programmes, or to prohibit product placement by law. The Government said it "remains open to other options if there are strong arguments that the concerns can be met".

The Government also wants to introduce formal regulation covering all ads in video-on-demand services, overseen by the ASA.

The EU Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) directive came into force on 19 December 2007. The UK has until 19 December 2009 to implement it.

The DCMS consultation will close on 31 October.

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