Legal Updates

Media & Entertainment – Product Placement in TV Programmes - Advertising and Promotions


As of 28th February 2011, product placement was permitted in UK TV Programmes for the first time.  Ofcom, the Media Regulator, has confirmed that “paid for references to products and/or services” will be permitted in TV programmes, subject to Ofcom’s rules for product placement, published in December 2010 (Broadcasting Code (2011)).  These rules bring the UK in line with EU legislation, which were introduced by way of the Audiovisual Media Services (Product Placement) Regulations 2010 – which amends the Communications Act 2003.

As of 28th February, and subject to the above rules, product placement will be permitted in films, TV series, entertainment shows and sports programmes.  This will not extend to (i) news programmes, (ii) current affairs programmes (produced in the UK), (iii) religious programmes, (iv) consumer affairs programmes, and (v) children’s programmes.  No product placement will be permitted in respect of tobacco, alcohol, gambling products or services, medicines, baby milk or foods which are high in fat, salt or sugar.

Ofcom has now also stressed that any TV programme containing product placement must be signalled by the symbol “P” for three seconds at the start and end of a programme and at any breaks for advertising purposes by the broadcaster, so as to clearly inform the audience that a paid for reference to products/services is contained in the programme.

In its statement, Ofcom said that "[I]n line with EU and UK legislation, [Ofcom's] rules state that product placement must not impair broadcasters’ editorial independence and must always be editorially justified.."  Ofcom went further to explain that "[T]his 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."

The rationale behind the adoption of the new regime for product placement, as asserted by Ofcom, is to enable “commercial broadcasters to access new sources of revenue, whilst providing protection for audiences."  Whether this has the desired effect or , indeed an adverse effect,  remains to be seen.

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© RT COOPERS, 2011. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.


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