Andy calls time on product placement….?

Andy calls time on product placement….?

Somewhat behind original timelines, the government has today given further indication of how it will proceed with implementing the Audiovisual Media Services Directive into UK law.

Today has seen the publication of a press release, Ministerial Statement from Andy Burnham, and a document giving an overview of responses to the original consultation.

An initial glance (so forgive me if a more detailed read thows up further information) shows that whilst the main thrust of the government approach is made clear, there is still a long way to go on the detail.

Today’s documents state that the government wishes to apply the Directive only to those “mass media services whose principal purpose is to provide television programming to the public on demand.”

The scope of services that will be captured by the Directive has been one of ongoing concern and where clarity is urgently required – as stated strongly in the BSG’s response to the AVMS consultation.

As ever the devil will be in the detail. Watch this space for details of the Statutory Instruments that will carry this into UK law….

What is clear however is that the Culture Secretary has not shifted from his initial view on product placement (something that the Directive allows Member States to permit, should they wish).

The title of the press release perhaps gives it away: “preserving standards will be cornerstone of UK media services”.

This release then goes on to say that “mindful of the need to maintain public trust in television broadcasters and British television’s reputation for high standards” that the government has decided to go with the status quo and continue to prohibit product placement.

What is interesting however, is that the release also clarifies that product placement will continue to be allowed in films and overseas programmes (which we knew) but also in programmes made by and for UK Video on Demand (VoD) services.

And VoD services are described as “TV-like” in the Directive……..

Now, these are just questions rather than a statement of view at this point:, but:

– Is the government response to a policy development that is trying to regulate for a converged media world, actually then drawing distinctions between how broadcast and on-demand TV should operate and be funded?
– Will that become an irrelevance to the consumer as people become used to accessing TV-like content on the mix between their mobile phone, TV and computer and also a mix between real-time and on-demand?

Such questions aside, the line drawn in the sand here will come as a blow for ITV and others that have been pushing the case for product placement with the government.

It also prompts one to consider how this decision will impact on the development of the Digital Britain report, which gives considerable emphasis to possible measures to address the challenges for digital content.

Today’s announcement does say that the government will review its position in 2011/2 on the back of further research by Ofcom on product placement.

As other Members States take advantage of the opportunity to implement product placement however, the question is, will this timescale be too late?

Pamela Learmonth, Policy Manager, BSG