Beeb tightens up on product placement

LONDON — An internal BBC inquiry has cleared producers of product placement in hit shows such as spy skein “Spooks” (aired in the U.S. as “MI-5″) but admitted to examples of “product prominence.”

Product placement, common in the U.S., is banned in Blighty, so BBC officials were embarrassed when Murdoch-owned broadsheet paper the Sunday Times carried a story last month claiming that program makers agreed to feature certain products in return for travel expenses and free gifts.

Today the BBC said it was “deeply reassured” that no skullduggery had occurred but acknowledged there had been some instances of product prominence “which were not editorially justified.”

As a result, the pubcaster is tightening producer guidelines on product placement “to heighten the awareness of program makers in the light of this investigation.”

BBC director of television Jana Bennett said: “Constant vigilance is necessary. I accept the recommendation of the investigation that a program to ensure increased awareness of the BBC’s rules on product placement should begin immediately.”

It’s not just the BBC that is prohibited from featuring goods and services in its shows in return for coin or other rewards; commercial webs in the U.K. are also barred from product placement.

Many private channels and independent producers favor loosening the restrictions, however, as coin from spot advertising is threatened by increasing competition and the spread of digital video recorders allowing auds to fast forward through ad breaks.

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