German pols blast TV product placement

Bavaria Film's admission comes after EPD probe

BERLIN — German state leaders are calling for more transparency from pubcasters as a product-placement scandal engulfs ARD.

Pubcaster’s production subsid, Bavaria Film, has confirmed it illegally placed products for profit in its hit show “Marienhof,” which it produces for ARD.

Unlike in the U.S., where product placement is legal if disclosed, German law prohibits all hidden advertising on TV programs.

Bavaria Film’s admission comes after a probe by German news service Evangelischer Pressedienst (EPD) uncovered what it alleges is extensive illegal placements going back 10 years and encompassing other shows, including medical series “In aller Freundschaft” and crime drama “Rosenheim Cops.”

“Clarification and transparency are now of the utmost importance,” said Hermann Winkler, head of the state chancellery in Saxony, on Thursday.

Bavaria execs have promised an investigation and have hired KPMG to conduct an audit, including a detailed account of how the product placement schemes worked.

Fritz Pleitgen, head of ARD regional affil WDR, called the scandal the “most severe incident I have had in my entire term of office.”

Winkler called for improved oversight of pubcasters, which, unlike commercial rivals, are self-governed. “We have to prevent such things from occurring in the future,” he added.

Winkler also blasted ARD for its plan to file a complaint with Germany’s Constitutional Court in protest that a TV license fee increase in April did not go far enough.

The pubcasters have been up in arms over a decision by the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states to raise TV license fees by $1.07 to $20.80 a month instead of by $1.33 to $21.06, the amount the pubcasters had sought. ARD and ZDF receive $8 billion in TV license fees plus $300 million in ad rev.

The Saxon state government is led by the conservative CDU, which is less supportive of TV license fee increases and pubcaster advertising than the more pubcaster-friendly SPD. The CDU appears poised to win this fall’s federal election.

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