UK: Government sets out product placement rules

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The UK government has confirmed that it will maintain a ban on the placement of branded alcohol and soft drinks high in sugar in television programmes.

The Government today (9 February) announced that product placement will be allowed on UK television programmes not targeted at children in a bid to alleviate financial damage to the industry.

But, alcohol and food and drink high in sugar, salt and fat, as well as cigarettes, will be left out of the new rules.

The ban follows reports of opposition from Cabinet ministers to an original proposal to allow alcohol and sugary drinks to be 'placed' in shows in return for a fee.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, who drew up the original proposal, said today: “It is right for us to proceed with caution and in particular to be very careful about the types of product for which it is permitted."

“Our legislation will therefore specify some important exceptions, in particular the prohibition of the placement of alcohol and foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS foods).”

The Government also fully shares the concerns that have been expressed about the potential impact of product placement on the editorial independence of broadcasters and viewers’ trust in what they see on television.  We believe that our proposals will safeguard these.

Product placement will not be allowed in the BBC’s licence-fee funded services.

Bradshaw said the Government had considered allowing alcohol product placement in programmes past the watershed but added: “This would be complex to administer and would not provide the certainty which the Government seeks.”

He said: “In the circumstances we intend to legislate for a complete bar on placing these products. This as an important aspect of the cautious approach that we need to take.”

Children’s food campaigners welcomed today’s announcement but said there are still “serious concerns” about the use of any form of paid-for product placement.

Ian Twinn, director of public affairs for the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) yesterday hit out at a proposed u-turn by the Government on product placement.

Twinn said that while there is a need for “strict rules”, it doesn’t think an “idiosyncratic ban” is the way to do it.

“[The Government] need to be more thoughtful,” Twinn said. “I suppose we are a little disappointed. If this government does allow [the ban], the only things we are going to be allowed to do are things that don’t upset the prejudices of individual members of the cabinet. It’s very odd.”

Twinn added that stopping the advertising of sugary drinks and foods high in salt, fat and sugar will not be “particularly helpful”.

The Portman Group, the self-regulatory body for alcoholic drinks producers, had been cautious on product placement and has not supported plans to include alcohol in new placement rules.

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