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Nets want product placement legalized

BERLIN — As pubcaster ARD continues to feel the fallout from a product placement scandal that’s tarnished its credibility, commercial rivals are calling for the practice to be legalized.

Juergen Doetz, head of the Assn. of Commercial Broadcasters and Telecommunication (VPRT), said Wednesday that product placement was increasingly necessary for broadcasters now that more viewers have digital video recorders that allow them to skip commercials.

Classic TV advertising blocks are becoming less and less attractive for advertisers, he added.

Doetz stressed, however, that product placement must be disclosed so as not to deceive viewers. Current German law prohibits product placement on TV. The VPRT proposes that advertisers be listed in the opening and closing credits of programs.

Doetz also welcomed sweeping changes recently proposed by European Union Media Commissioner Viviane Reding to loosen product placement rules.

Yet the VPRT remains steadfastly against advertising, including product placement, on pubcasters.

A German newsmagazine recently uncovered alleged illegal placements by ARD production subsidiary Bavaria Film going back 10 years. Bavaria has partially confirmed the reports.

The scandal infuriated ARD execs, who claim they had no knowledge of the practice, as well as politicos, who are calling for more transparency at the pubcasters.

On Wednesday, ARD program director Guenter Struve said the pubcaster was introducing its first measures to prevent illegal advertising on programming. Net will show educational videos to all of its writers and producers to make them aware of the practice.

Struve added that so-called topic placement — in which advertisers place a specific topic or issue in a show — is becoming increasingly subtle and sophisticated.

Bavaria-produced soap “Marienhof” has been singled out. Its cast dispenses home improvement tips, travel advice and even support for Turkey’s admission into the European Union, all paid for, undisclosed, by advertisers including the Consortium of Textile Floor Coverings, travel operator L’tur and the Assn. of Turkish Entrepreneurs & Industrialists.

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