BBC Licence Fee Funded Television Services and Product Placement
In this article
- Editorial Guidelines Issues
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Acquired Programmmes
- 3. Key Principles for Transmission of Acquisitions Including Product Placement
- 4. Restrictions on Programme Genres and the Types of Product which may be Placed in Programmes Acquired by the BBC
- 5. Signalling Product Placement
- 6. Programme Acquisitions from Third Parties Outside the UK
- 7. Acquisitions of UK Programmes Originally Shown on UK Commercial Television
- 8. Acquisitions from BBC Worldwide, UKTV or Other Producers or Broadcasters Connected to the BBC
- 9. Feature Films Originally Made for Cinematic Release
Last updated: April 2011
Editorial Guidelines Issues
This guidance note should be considered in conjunction with the following Editorial Guidelines:
- Editorial Integrity and Independence from External Interests
See Editorial Guidelines Section 14 Editorial Integrity and Independence from External Interests: Product Placement
In addition to this Guidance, further advice may be sought from Chief Adviser Editorial Policy.
Product placement is the inclusion for a commercial purpose of a reference (in vision or audio) to a product, service or trade mark within a programme in return for payment or other valuable consideration.
The taking of product placement is now permissible on commercial television services in the U.K. in accordance with Section 9 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code which came into force on 28 February 2011. Some of the applicable rules are statutory and are laid out in the amended Communications Act 2003.
Under the terms of the BBC Agreement, the BBC must not commission, produce or co-produce output for its licence fee funded services which contains product placement. All programmes made by the BBC, or an independent producer for broadcast on BBC licence fee funded services, must be free of product placement.
2. Acquired Programmmes
In some cases BBC licence fee funded television services may broadcast a programme acquired from a third party which contains product placement.
We may only broadcast an acquired programme containing product placement if the BBC clearly gets no financial benefit from the placement. We must not acquire a programme from a third party on the condition that the product placement within the programme will be broadcast.
We are subject to both self-regulation and Ofcom regulation in this area together with other regulatory requirements. The broadcasting of any programme including product placement must be in accordance with Section Nine of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, the European AVMS Directive, relevant UK legislation, the BBC Agreement and the BBC Editorial Guidelines. This guidance has been drawn up to take account of these regulatory requirements.
Those involved with the programming, purchase or compliance of acquired programmes or feature films should familiarise themselves with the detailed Ofcom rules on product placement in Section Nine of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and the Ofcom Guidance Notes on product placement.
3. Key Principles for Transmission of Acquisitions Including Product Placement
Product placement must not distort the editorial content of programmes.
Placed products, services or trade marks should not be promoted in programmes and their presence should have an editorial justification
References to placed products, services and trade marks must not be unduly prominent. Undue prominence may result from
- the presence of, or reference to, a product, service or trade mark in programming where there is no editorial justification or
- the manner in which a product, service or trade mark appears or is referred to in programming
Products, services and trade marks, whether or not they have been placed, should not be promoted in programmes. Products should not be plugged or described in a superlative light.
References which are unduly prominent or promotional should be removed or obscured.
Fuller details of the Ofcom requirements can be found in Section 9 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
4. Restrictions on Programme Genres and the Types of Product which may be Placed in Programmes Acquired by the BBC
It should be noted that restrictions are tighter for programmes made after 19 December 2009 when the European AVMS Directive came into force.
4.1 Restrictions on the Types of Acquired Programmes which may Contain Product Placement
In line with statutory restrictions and the Ofcom Code, we may not broadcast acquired programmes from anywhere in the world made after 19 December 2009 which include product placement if they fall into the following categories
- News programmes
- Children's programmes
In addition, in line with statutory requirements and the Ofcom Code, the following categories of programmes would not be permitted to take product placement if they were originally made for a UK commercial broadcaster and were made after December 19, 2009.
- Current Affairs Programmes
- Religious programmes
- Consumer advice programmes
The BBC would not normally broadcast any programmes in the genres listed above if they contained product placement, even if acquired from broadcasters or producers outside the U.K. Any possible exception would need very strong editorial justification and must be approved by Chief Adviser Editorial Policy.
The BBC may wish to broadcast acquired programmes which contain product placement, which were previously broadcast by a non-UK broadcaster and were made before 19 December 2009. If such programmes are in any of the categories listed above ( news, children's, current affairs, religious programmes and consumer advice programmes) there would need to be a strong editorial justification for broadcasting them without removing or obscuring any product placement we know to be present and the approval of Chief Adviser Editorial Policy must be obtained. We would not broadcast children's programmes which contained known product placement, irrespective of when they were made. Any proposal to use an extract of a children's programme which contained product placement in output not targeted at children must be referred to Chief Adviser Editorial Policy.
4.2 Live News Broadcasts from Outside the EU
There may be some occasions when there is some placement in a live news feed from outside the EU, such as a feed from the United States at the time of a breaking story. Although we should not normally broadcast the placement if we know it is present in some exceptional cases there may be permissible editorial reasons to do so. But there is a need for caution in this area. Advice should be sought from Editorial Policy.
4.3 Restrictions on Types of Product which may be Placed
Product placement of the following is prohibited for all acquired programmes, whether acquired from the U.K or abroad, if they were made after 19 December 2009.
- Cigarettes or other tobacco products
- Placement by or on behalf of any undertaking whose principal activity is the manufacture or sale of cigarettes or other tobacco products
- Prescription-only medicines
Even though the Ofcom restrictions on placement of these products only apply to programmes made after 19 December 2009, the BBC might well have concerns about their placement in earlier programmes. Any known placement of these products in programmes made before this date must be referred to Chief Adviser Editorial Policy for advice.
In addition any programmes made after 19 December 2009 which were acquired from U.K. producers and broadcasters, or originally made for broadcast on a U.K. service should not include placement of
- Alcoholic drinks
- Foods high in fat, salt or sugar
- Infant formula or baby milk ( the BBC would extend this prohibition to any programme, even it were acquired from abroad)
- All medicinal products
- Electronic or smokeless cigarettes, cigarette lighters, cigarette papers, or pipes intended for smoking
- Any product, service or trade mark which may not be advertised on television in the U.K.
It should be noted that the BBC would not broadcast programmes acquired from the U.K. or abroad if we know they contain product placement of
- Any product or service connected to a political organisation
- Any product or service connected to a religious body
- Pornography or sexual services
- Infant formula or baby milk
- Any product which might bring the BBC or its services into disrepute.
When acquiring programmes every effort should be made to ensure that we know of any product placement. If we know that placement is in a category which is unacceptable then consideration may be given to whether the programme may be acquired and the placement removed. If it is not possible to obscure the placement, the programme should not be acquired.
5. Signalling Product Placement
If commercial broadcasters in the U.K. insert product placement in their programmes they (or a producer connected to them) have produced or commissioned, they are required to signal the placement.
Neither the BBC nor commercial broadcasters are required to signal product placement in output acquired from third parties unless there is some connection between the broadcaster and the third party.
BBC licence fee funded services do not broadcast content which requires the signalling of product placement.
6. Programme Acquisitions from Third Parties Outside the UK
The BBC may broadcast a suitable acquired programme containing product placement which was made by a foreign producer unconnected with the BBC or BBC commercial services and had its first transmission on a channel abroad.
In very exceptional circumstances, the BBC might wish to transmit an acquired programme containing product placement before its transmission abroad. For example, a U.S. broadcaster might have scheduled its transmission of the programme for a particular date but had to delay and we would wish to continue with our scheduled slot. Showing an acquisition before it is shown in the country of origin is problematic, as the BBC would need to be able to demonstrate that this is a genuinely acquired programme and that the BBC licence fee funded service had not benefitted from the placement. Any proposal to show a foreign acquisition containing product placement before it has been transmitted abroad must be referred to Chief Adviser Editorial Policy who will consult the relevant BBC lawyers.
The legislation does not require the BBC to signal product placement in programmes acquired from third parties outside the U.K, which are unconnected to the BBC.
7. Acquisitions of UK Programmes Originally Shown on UK Commercial Television
BBC licence fee funded television is permitted to re-broadcast a U.K. programme containing product placement which was originally made by a producer or broadcaster unconnected to the BBC and was originally transmitted on a commercial service unconnected with the BBC.
The legislation would not require signalling of placement in such an acquisition if were broadcast on BBC licence fee funded television.
However, BBC licence fee funded television does not carry advertising or sponsorship and in most cases it would be unlikely that we would wish to re-broadcast a programme specifically made for a U.K. audience which included product placement. We would normally remove or blur any product placement in such programmes. Any proposal to include known product placement in such a programme when it is broadcast on licence fee funded television must be for a strong editorially justifiable reason and must be expressly approved by the Chief Adviser Editorial Policy and the relevant channel controller.
8. Acquisitions from BBC Worldwide, UKTV or Other Producers or Broadcasters Connected to the BBC
If BBC licence fee funded television commissions, co-produces or acquires a programme from BBC Worldwide or a production house connected to BBC Worldwide, or any entity connected to the BBC, it must not contain product placement. There must be no product placement in such a programme when it is transmitted on BBC licence fee funded television even if the first transmission was outside the U.K.
Any programme made by an independent producer for UKTV which contains product placement must not be transmitted on BBC licence fee funded television.
8.1 BBC Productions for UKTV
Programmes made by independent producers for UKTV may contain product placement in accordance with the Ofcom Code and the BBC's own stipulations in the Guidelines for BBC Commercial Services on Editorial Integrity and Independence from Commercial Interests. However, any programme made by BBC Production for UKTV must not contain product placement, even if the programme is only broadcast on UKTV and is not transmitted on licence fee funded services.
9. Feature Films Originally Made for Cinematic Release
9.1 Feature Films Unconnected to the BBC
BBC licence fee funded services broadcast acquired feature films originally made for cinematic release. These films, particularly those made in Hollywood, may in some cases contain product placement. It is important to be aware that Ofcom rules prohibit the inclusion of placement of the following products, services or trade marks in any feature films made after 19 December 2009 when they are broadcast on television in the U.K.
- Cigarettes or other tobacco products
- Placement by or on behalf of an undertaking whose principal activity is the manufacture or sale of cigarettes or other tobacco products
- Prescription-only medicines
If we are aware that any of these products have been placed in films made after 19 December 2009 we should remove or obscure the reference to the brand or trade mark.
However, all transmissions of feature films, even if they were made before 19 December 2009, should adhere to the principles in section 3 above and any unacceptable references should be removed or blurred.
Product placement in feature films does not require signalling when they are transmitted on BBC television, provided the film is not connected in any way to the BBC or a BBC commercial subsidiary and there is no investment by the BBC in the film.
9.2 BBC Films
BBC Films, a Unit within BBC Vision, aims to stimulate and strengthen the ambition of independent film making in the U.K by investing in high quality feature films made by independent producers. By investing in these films for cinematic release, BBC Films secures rights for their subsequent transmission on BBC television.
BBC Films contracts stipulate that there should be no product placement in films in which they invest. And every effort must be made to ensure that there is no placement in these films.
It needs to be borne in mind that if there were to be placement in a film in which the BBC invests, the legislation would require the placement to be signalled when the film is transmitted on BBC television. The BBC's policy is that it will not broadcast output which requires signalling for product placement, and the BBC has notified Ofcom that it will not be transmitting output which requires signalling.
If there is any suggestion, despite the BBC's contractual position, that a film in which the BBC has invested may contain product placement, the Chief Adviser Editorial Policy must be notified immediately.
If, in very exceptional circumstances, there were a proposal to transmit a BBC Film which contained placement, and therefore required signalling when shown on BBC licence fee funded television, this would need to be considered by the Director Editorial Policy and Standards and the relevant Divisional Director and expressly approved by the Director General. It would also be necessary to consult Ofcom.