Good news for independent broadcasters, businesses and the advertising and PR industries today: the government is likely to overturn the ban on product placement on television programmes, perhaps as early as this week. The Telegraph reports that the move “could lead to celebrity chefs promoting supermarket products in their cooking programmes and soft drinks manufacturers placing their beverages in television talent shows”.
The news will be welcomed by independent broadcasters who will see a rise in revenues through paid-for product placements in their programmes. It ought also to have a positive impact on the PR industry.
Whilst product placement will almost certainly not be allowed in news or current affairs programming, it is worth noting that under the current regulations editorial staff at commercial news outlets have had a tread a very careful line when covering consumer announcements from retailers, manufacturers and others. In our experience, the existing regulations have created a climate in which news editors and producers have been nervous of being accused of offering back-door product endorsements masquerading as news. This, in our view, has often led to the counter-intuitive spectre of stories of legitimate consumer interest finding a home on the BBC and not on commercial television. The decision ought to lead to a reduced level of editorial nervousness when covering announcements which are of real public interest from commercial organisations.
The expected change in the rules this week will only apply to commercial broadcasters, with the BBC still restricted from promoting products, even in programmes made by independent production companies.
Advertisers, broadcasters and the PR industry have long argued that the rules are unnecessarily draconian and that increasingly sophisticated consumers are unlikely to be swayed by brands that are placed in programmes, however overtly.