Placing products to be allowed on TV

The world’s biggest brands were last night tipped to be planning negotiations to feature their products in British television programmes for the first time.

So-called product placement is currently prohibited on UK television, but whispers heard in Whitehall claim a consultation will soon begin on a proposal to end the ban.

The move could lead to mobile phone companies paying to have their products feature in dramas and celebrity chefs promoting kitchen or supermarket products.

It would also give a much-needed financial boost to independent broadcasters, such as ITV, whose advertising-led revenues have been hit hard in the recession.

But the all-clear for product placement is likely to apply only to commercial broadcasters, so the BBC will still be banned from unduly featuring products.

The ban will also remain in force for all children’s television makers across all of the UK’s networks, according to the details of the plan, seen by The Sunday Telegraph.

For coming a few months after the-then culture secretary, Andy Burnham, said ending the ban would raise “very serious concerns,” the plan to have it lifted is a surprise.

Yet the minister’s claim came in March, before he was replaced by Ben Bradshaw, a former BBC reporter, who is thought to take a different view to his predecessor.

Mr Bradshaw may use a speech this week at the Royal Television Society to signal his intention, before he launches a three-month consultation on the proposal.

Telling broadcasters they can soon pursue product placement, which is rife in the US on popular soaps and already allowed in British films, is likely to endear him to the audience.

According to the most widely cited industry estimate, product placement on British TV could open an income stream worth between £72m and £100million in the short-term alone.


14th September 2009

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