UK media regulator Ofcom has wasted no time in launching a consultation on product placement, just days after the European Commission announced proposed new rules lifting the ban on the practice in the era of digital television.
Product placement—defined by Ofcom as "the inclusion of, or reference to, a product or service within a programme in return for payment or other valuable consideration"—is regarded by some as a means by which broadcasters can counter the threat of lost advertising revenues from personal video recorders (PVRs), which allow viewers to skip ads by fast-forwarding recorded programmes.
Product placement is currently prohibited under the EC's Television Without Frontiers Directive, first adopted in 1989. A draft revision of the directive, unveiled last week, lifts the ban in all programming except for news, current affairs and children's programmes. Viewers will have to be warned at the start of a programme that it contains product placement advertising.
Ofcom said it believed that "a cautious approach to the introduction of product placement has merit". Its consultation asks how the proposed liberalisation could be interpreted and applied in the UK broadcasting market "in a manner which clearly informs the viewer and safeguards critical editorial and programme genres".
Ofcom's consultation closes on March 8, 2006.
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