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    Briefing on Product Placement

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    DATELINE: 12/10/09
    Product placement is an advertising technique whereby advertisers pay to have their products included and promoted in television programmes. Editorial staff, scriptwriters and producers amend scripts and plots so as to feature and promote certain products. Words are put into the mouths of TV characters to advertise brands. Currently, in the UK, only unpaid 'prop' supply is permitted and commercial references are subject to Ofcom rules against 'undue prominence'.  The CPBF, together with viewers' organisations and consumer bodies, opposes the introduction of paid placement. Product placement would allow programme agendas to be distorted for commercial purposes and would give advertisers unhealthy control over decisions about what content is made, shown and commissioned.

    Myth: Product placement will provide greater realism for viewers
    We are told product placement will allow greater 'realism' but this misleads the public. What advertisers want, and will pay for, is marketing within programmes.

    Brands have not been banned; what is forbidden is paying for commercial plugs and giving 'undue prominence' to specific goods and services in UK-produced TV. We do not oppose  unpaid prop placement; accessories given for free are a common practice and acceptable provided products are not given 'undue prominence'.  There is a dictinction between such production aids and product placement of an advertising nature, paid by a third party, which should be banned.

    Myth: product placement can coexist with editorial independence
    Once paid placement is allowed,  commercial pressures  will make the 'undue prominence' rule unworkable. At present, the ban on product placement and the undue prominence rules work hand-in hand in making any breach visible. If PP is allowed, it will not be posible to maintain 'undue prominence' in anything like its current form. No doubt any UK rules will specify that PP must not interfere with 'editorial integrity'. How will this be identified and regulated in future if PP is permitted?

    We don't believe that permitting PP would bring British TV swiftly to the levels of embedded advertising found on American network and cable TV. But we believe that removing the two rules that prevent PP would remove the only effective regulatory safeguards. From that point the same commercial pressures  here would be most likely tolead to increasing product placement, towards the patterns established in the United States. There product placement has become more intensive and more intrusive. According to Nielsen Media Research, product placement occurrences on network TV prime time rose to 22,046 in the first three quarters of 2007. On cable TV, for the same period Nielson found 136,078 occurrences. Product placements with a combined visual and audio reference on US network television went up by 17% in 2006 to 4,608, and by 13% to 5,190 in 2007. There were 118,000 individual product placements across 11 top US channels in first three months of 2008 alone.

    According to David Young, Director of the Writers Guild of America West, 'Product integration goes far beyond the long-standing practice of using real commercial products as props. It forces professional television writers to disguise commercials as story lines and destroys the line between advertising and editorial content'.  In the first quarter of 2008, TNS Media Intelligence found that brand appearances, in the form of product placement and integration, averaged 12 minutes and eight seconds per hour in primetime network television, all in addition to 14 minutes of regular commercial breaks. In 2007, American Idol featured 4,349 product placements, topping the list of network TV programmes with product integration. Coca-Cola's deal with American Idol involved logo-ed cups in front of the three judges, the traditional green room renamed 'Coca-Cola Red Room', specially taped segments labelled 'Coca-Cola Moments', as well as plugs by the show's hosts.   Fox's talent show American Idol is produced by FreemantleMedia North America, a subsidiary of Freemantle Media Ltd UK responsible for more than 500 hours of programming in the UK last year. Ofcom has already stated that episodes of American Idol that aired on ITV 2 breached UK rules on undue prominence despite having been re-edited for transmission in the UK.

    Maintaining the separation of advertising and content not only protects against stealth advertising, it protects editorial independence and the artistic and creative integrity of programmes. The ban on product placement does not just protect against how brands are featured in particular programmes – it protects how decisions are made across broadcasting as a whole, about how stories are told and even what stories are told.

    Disclosure
    Announcing product placement in end credits or at the start of programmes will not work. Even for those watching 'linear' programming, zapping between channels is the norm, so it is likely that the information will not be seen. For the growing number of households with DVRs the opportunities to bypass such notices only increases. Yet, the issue of product placement is only partly about disclosure. It is about the impact of integrating commercial messages and interests into the very fabric of programmes and programme decision-making. Even if a consumer watches the credits, the announcement certainly won’t reveal how the plot and dialogue of a TV programme have been adapted to fit marketers objectives.

    Will children be protected from product placement?
    Maintaining a ban on PP in children's programmes alone will not be sufficient to serve the intended purpose. According to the OFCOM children spend 71% of their TV viewing time outside of children's airtime.  Product placement would, for example, be allowed in reality TV shows, such as The X-Factor, that are extremely popular amongst young viewers.

    Advertising rules and product placement
    Permitting PP would fatally undermine broadcast advertising rules.  All the efforts in the advertising code to prevent brand associations which may be damaging in various ways (cars and speed, alcohol or cigarette and sexual allure, HFSS food promotion to children) are much less enforceable in programme content.  In fact, promoters would have incentives to evade advertising restrictions, broadcasters and producers would have incentives to attract pp, and advertising rules would be inconsistently applied and so undermined. Research by the US Institute of Medicine, for instance, found that companies promoting unhealthy food and drink were increasingly targeting children through product placement.

    The economic case
    It is true that many businesses will make money if product placement is permitted but it is not clear that the net benefit will be significantly higher investment in UK programmes. The money paid for product placement often ends up in third party hands, for example advertising agencies or producers. As Channel Four has argued product placement could largely cannibalise existing sponsorship and spot advertising income. Sponsors may perceive a programme to have less value if it features product placement from other companies. The benefit for viewers had not been adequately demonstrated and must be based on both economic and cultural criteria, since what matters is the quality and range of programmes produced and financed. The economic case does not outweigh the damage to the integrity and credibility of British television programmes resulting from allowing paid placement. We therefore agree with the Government’s position, as stated in March 2009, that 'no conclusive evidence has been put forward that the economic benefit of introducing product placement is sufficient to outweigh the detrimental impact it would have on the quality and standards of British television and viewers' trust in it'.

    Does the public want product placement?
    Even Ofcom’s commissioned research in 2004, which was small-scale and flawed, revealed that 90 per cent of those questioned were either wary or strongly disapproved of allowing more prominent and more frequent placements. A recent survey carried out by Redshift Research reported that a majority of UK adults favoured PP. Yet some some 85% of those surveyed said that PP would not necessarily bring any benefits to the actual programming other than a revenue boost for programme makers, while 66% said that they didn't believe that PP would make TVprogrammes more realistic. There is an urgent need for more thorough research into viewers attitudes including 'citizens juries' and other deliberative methods of opinion research.

    Following the United States?
    The UK government is considering abandoning the principle of separation of editorial and advertising, just as growing disquiet in the United States about PP is prompting  efforts to move in the opposite direction. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules require that all commercial messages must be clearly disclosed to TV viewers. In practice, however, this means that corporate sponsors are mentioned in small type during fast moving end credits. Former FCC commissioner  Jonathan Adelstein called for tighter rules and more prominent on-air disclosure while FCC Chairman Kevin Martin acknowledged: 'growing concern that our sponsorship identification rules fall short of their ultimate goal: to ensure that the public is able to identify both the commercial nature of the programming as well as its source. I believe it is important for consumers to know when someone is trying to sell them something'. The FCC is considering strengthening rules that require networks to disclose to viewers when products have been integrated into programming.

    Product integration and new media
    Product placement should not be permitted in non-linear as well as linear AV services. For acquired programmes that contain product placement there should be a mandatory notification given to viewers. In addition, there should be a prohibition on any product placement being added to acquired VOD content.

    Summary
    We concur with BEUC, the European Consumers' Organisation, representing 40 independent national consumer organisations from across Europe, in calling for a total ban on product placement: 'The principle of separation is one of the most important rules in media: the content of a show must be clearly separated from advertising. People must be able to know if they are watching information, entertainment, or if they are watching advertisement. Allowing product placement will make this principle meaningless, and will damage the integrity, credibility and quality of TV programmes' (BEUC 2006).

    So, we call for:
    o No paid product placement
    o Strict separation between programmes and advertising
    o Maintenance of the undue prominence rules



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    Last modified: Monday, October 12, 2009


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  • Notices

    Events & Announcements

    Miners strike - Thatcher's lies and still no justice


    DATELINE: 25/3/14
    When the 1984 Cabinet papers concerning the miners strike of 30 years ago, were released this January, a gripping account was laid bare of the secret steps taken by Margaret Thatcher to break the strike, and the lies told to the nation. As the then Prime Minister micromanaged the government's authoritarian response to the strikers, including the brutal police responses, and hiding the truth surrounding the planned number of pit closure, a new book reveals there's still no justice.
    » Read on


    You are invited to a screening of Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary,


    DATELINE: 4/4/14

    A film by STEPHEN VITTORIA (Documentary/USA 2012.Wednesday 30 April 2014 at 6 p.m.School of Law, University of Westminster, 4, Little Titchfield Street, London W1W 7UW.The documentary follows the extraordinary journey of the journalist and revolutionary Mumia Abu- Jamal, who was imprisoned in solitary confinement on death row in Pennsylvania, USA for 30 years.The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and Q & A.The event is free but RSVP is required. Please RSVP Nicola Laing at N.Laing@westminster.ac.uk  


    Public Meeting Tuesday 29 April


    DATELINE: 31/3/14
    Revealing Truths - Just how free is the press today?
    7.30 pm- 9.00pm
    Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester.
    Speakers: Granville Williams (CPBF)
    Stephen Kingston (Salford Star editor)Free entry.
    Organised by the Mary Quaile Club
    http://maryquaileclub.wordpress.com
    email: maryquaileclub@gmail.com 
    » Read on
    Diary date Saturday 21 June


    DATELINE: 10/3/14
    CPBF Annual General Meeting
    10am – 12.30pm NUJ HQ, 308 Gray's Inn Road
    London  WC1. (Tube/trains Kings Cross/St Pancras.)
    Election of national council, report on activities, debates.
    Deadlines - Nominations for the national council 6 June.
    AGM motions 13 June. Further details CPBF office.
    Email freepress@cpbf.org.uk 
    » Read on
    DOWNLOAD FREEPRESS NOW

    DATELINE: 26/3/10
    Download Freepress in PDF, ePub or mobi format. Issues 197 and 198 are now available in PDF format only.
    » Read on
    MEDIA FOR ALL CONFERENCE

    DATELINE: 26/3/10
    Papers from the Media for All Conference


    MEDIA MANIFESTO

    DATELINE: 26/3/10
    The media’s job is to inform and entertain us but we rely on them too to tell us what our rulers and representatives are up to. In the run-up to the Iraq war the government used spin and disinformation in the media to create panic and mislead people. The truth is coming out now, but we need stronger, more independent media to be able to scrutinise governments and make informed choices.
    » Read on

  • Previous stories

Extras

Campaign blogs:

PCC continues to massage the figures

posted by: Tom Rowland


DATELINE: 20/4/14

Last year the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) received 12,763 complaints, yet its published Monthly Complaint Summaries only record 5,940 cases dealt with – or about 46 per cent of the total.  So how it can claim that 80 per cent of complainants using its service are satisfied with the outcome?...

» Read on


The Miller's tale

posted by: Jonathan Heawood


DATELINE: 5/4/14
Maria Miller (pictured) has been found culpable by an MPs' committee of over claiming expenses on her London home, and of failing to co-operate with the committee's inquiry. She has been asked to apologise to the House of Commons and she has duly apologised, albeit tersely. Her political fate hangs in the balance....

» Read on


London Live goes live

posted by: Jonathan Hardy


DATELINE: 31/3/14
London's new local television channel, London Live is due to launch on the 31st of March. Its owner also owns the city's largest circulation local newspaper and two national newspapers. University of East London's Jonathan Hardy discusses the implications for media plurality arguing that the key question is how the new service will be regulated....

» Read on


Still settling scores

posted by: Granville Williams


DATELINE: 31/3/14
It is always educative to get out and about a bit. I've certainly been doing that this month promoting my new book Settling Scores: The Media, the Police and the Miners' Strike (http://www.cpbf.org.uk//) published for the 30th anniversary of the miners' strike....

» Read on


Newspapers exploit Lawrence case

posted by: Brian Cathcart


DATELINE: 16/3/14

We could be forgiven for thinking it was a default procedure these days at the Daily Mail: when an editorial writer gets to the final few paragraphs about almost any subject, he or she strains to find a way to blame it all on Sir Brian Leveson....

» Read on


Absent voice of Arthur Scargill

posted by: Nicholas Jones


DATELINE: 7/2/14
Margaret Thatcher's cabinet papers for the 1984-5 miners' strike have raised as many questions as answers - not least about the behaviour of the South Yorkshire Police - but once again a missing voice has been that of Arthur Scargill....

» Read on


Euro-electorate in the dark

posted by: Granville Williams


DATELINE: 28/1/14
As the European Elections loom on 22 May 2014 how well-informed will the UK electorate be when they put their crosses on the ballot papers? Not very, I’m afraid....

» Read on


A Pantomime of Deceit and Disinformation

posted by: Julian Petley


DATELINE: 16/12/13
By rejecting the Royal Charter, the majority of the British press has  done exactly the opposite of what it claims it wants to achieve: keep  politicians out of press regulation......

» Read on


Journalists in the dock

posted by: Justin Schlosberg


DATELINE: 6/12/13
A little over two months ago, the Daily Mail ran an editorial describing the leader of the Labour Party's father as 'the man who hated Britain'. Although that article was widely criticised in the broader media and by politicians of all colours, it is difficult to imagine that Keith Vaz would have posed his question had that article never appeared....

» Read on


Justice and journalism both on trial

posted by: Nicholas Jones


DATELINE: 29/11/13
Independent front page October 2013As the prosecution continues to present its evidence at the Old Bailey in the case alleging phone hacking and the bribing of public officials, it is becoming increasingly clear that not only is British justice on trial but also journalism itself....

» Read on


Lobbyists: seven key myths

posted by: Tamasin Cave, Spinwatch


DATELINE: 20/11/13
This month's Lords debate on the Lobbying Bill included a statement by Lord Wallace for the government on why it is refusing to introduce a more comprehensive register of lobbyists....

» Read on


How Twitter tames the Mail

posted by: Nicholas Jones


DATELINE: 29/10/13
While the Daily Mail's editor Paul Dacre continues to lick his wounds after a mauling at the hands of what he derides as the "Twitter mob", his headline writers have had no alternative but to accept the power of social media....

» Read on


When Harry Met Rupert

posted by: Barry White


DATELINE: 28/10/13
Rupert MurdochOn 22 October I went to hear the House of Lords' Communications Comm- ittee take evidence on media plurality from Sir Harold Evans, former editor of The Times and Sunday Times. He was followed by representatives from the Media Reform Coalition and the internet campaigning organisation Avaaz....

» Read on


"How much?" "What's it worth?": Murdoch's local news legacy

posted by: Nicholas Jones


DATELINE: 21/10/13

Across the country local press reporters will have every reason to reflect on the long-term impact of Rupert Murdoch's forty-year stewardship of some of Britain's most popular daily and Sunday newspapers....

» Read on


Digital audience for local press heralds a financial 'tipping point' in advertising revenue

posted by: Nicholas Jones


DATELINE: 14/10/13

After a decade or more of cuts and job losses a growing digital audience is holding out the prospect that local newspapers might soon be reaching a tipping point when online income outweighs the loss of print advertising....

» Read on


Did 'fact finder' Lord Justice Leveson overlook cash payments for news stories?

posted by: Nicholas Jones


DATELINE: 11/10/13
In one of the tetchiest exchanges during a select committee hearing before MPs, Lord Justice Leveson refused to get drawn into the way some tabloid newspapers continue to promise pay for information for news stories – a practice which represents one of the starkest ethical divides among British journalists....

» Read on


McBride's willing accomplices escape scrutiny

posted by: Nicholas Jones


DATELINE: 7/10/13
All too many political journalists were as complicit as the ex-spin doctor Damian McBride in helping to propagate his smear stories about the ministerial colleagues and opponents of the former Chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown....

» Read on


The enemies within at the BBC

posted by: Victor Noir


DATELINE: 22/9/13
The name of the operation is Rock the BBC. Bother them, get them on Prozac, looking over their shoulders all the time. MPs and government and rival media are at it all the time....

» Read on


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Events & announcements


You are invited to a screening of Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary,


DATELINE: 4/4/14

A film by STEPHEN VITTORIA (Documentary/USA 2012.Wednesday 30 April 2014 at 6 p.m.School of Law, University of Westminster, 4, Little Titchfield Street, London W1W 7UW.The documentary follows the extraordinary journey of the journalist and revolutionary Mumia Abu- Jamal, who was imprisoned in solitary confinement on death row in Pennsylvania, USA for 30 years.The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and Q & A.The event is free but RSVP is required. Please RSVP Nicola Laing at N.Laing@westminster.ac.uk  


Public Meeting Tuesday 29 April


DATELINE: 31/3/14
Revealing Truths - Just how free is the press today?
7.30 pm- 9.00pm
Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester.
Speakers: Granville Williams (CPBF)
Stephen Kingston (Salford Star editor)Free entry.
Organised by the Mary Quaile Club
http://maryquaileclub.wordpress.com
email: maryquaileclub@gmail.com 
» Read on
Diary date Saturday 21 June


DATELINE: 10/3/14
CPBF Annual General Meeting
10am – 12.30pm NUJ HQ, 308 Gray's Inn Road
London  WC1. (Tube/trains Kings Cross/St Pancras.)
Election of national council, report on activities, debates.
Deadlines - Nominations for the national council 6 June.
AGM motions 13 June. Further details CPBF office.
Email freepress@cpbf.org.uk 
» Read on
DOWNLOAD FREEPRESS NOW

DATELINE: 26/3/10
Download Freepress in PDF, ePub or mobi format. Issues 197 and 198 are now available in PDF format only.
» Read on
MEDIA FOR ALL CONFERENCE

DATELINE: 26/3/10
Papers from the Media for All Conference


MEDIA MANIFESTO

DATELINE: 26/3/10
The media’s job is to inform and entertain us but we rely on them too to tell us what our rulers and representatives are up to. In the run-up to the Iraq war the government used spin and disinformation in the media to create panic and mislead people. The truth is coming out now, but we need stronger, more independent media to be able to scrutinise governments and make informed choices.
» Read on