In what appears to be something of a turnaround, the Government has this weekend indicated that it may soon be relaxing the restrictions on product placement in programmes on commercial TV.
It is expected that Ben Bradshaw, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will announce during a speech to the Royal Television Society later this week a three month consultation on the lifting of the ban on product placement. Bradshaw, who assumed office on 5 June 2009, appears to be ready to adopt a different position from that taken by his predecessor, Andy Burnham, whose department recently issued a statement reaffirming the view that product placement was undesirable and that it would not be allowed save to the limited extent already permitted.
Both the advertising and television industries are carefully monitoring product placement developments ahead of implementation in the UK, on 19 December 2009, of the important European Audio-Visual Media Services Directive.
Mr Bradshaw seems to be more receptive than his predecessor to the lobbying of independent broadcasters and production companies, led by ITV, who have been arguing that the relaxation of the ban on product placement in their programmes would go some way to alleviating the financial pressures they are currently experiencing.
It appears unlikely that any relaxation of the ban will affect the BBC which will continue to be bound by the previous rules and by its Charter.
The full extent of any changes is not yet known. However, these are likely to exclude children’s and news and current affairs programmes in accordance with the stipulations of the AVMS Directive.