Under no circumstances may a product be featured in sound or vision in return for cash, services or any consideration in kind. Such an arrangement would constitute product placement and is strictly forbidden
We must not accept free or reduced cost products or services in return for on-air or online credits, links or off-air marketing
Any on-air reference to a branded product, service or organisation must be clearly editorially justifiable and there should be no undue prominence
Props must not be obtained with the assurance that they will be shown on air or shown in a favourable light
Any use of a branded product as a prop must be editorially justified and there must be no undue prominence
To avoid product prominence, we must take great care to avoid the unduly repeated use of the same branded product as a prop in a programme or series
We must take particular care in long running drama series or sitcoms over the use of branded props or props which could be identified as being of a particular brand
If branded products are used as props, a wide range should normally be used over time.
BBC licence fee services must not take product placement. 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 the BBC, must be free of product placement.
Product placement is defined as “the inclusion in a programme of, or a reference to, a product, service or trade mark where the inclusion is for a commercial purpose, and is in return for the making of any payment, or the giving of other valuable consideration, to any relevant provider or any person connected with a relevant provider”. Product placement is now allowed for commercial television services in the U.K. under the terms of the Ofcom Code.
Although the BBC may not take product placement for licence fee funded services, it is now regulated in this area by Ofcom as well as the BBC Trust. It is essential that no prop procurement arrangements could be deemed to be product placement. If a producer, production company, broadcaster or anyone directly connected with a production is paid to include an item as a prop that would be deemed product placement which is strictly forbidden for BBC programmes.
In accordance with the Ofcom Code, in some circumstances a prop might be procured at a reduced cost or at no cost, where the provision of the prop does not involve payment or other valuable consideration to the broadcaster, producer or connected person and the prop does not represent a significant value to any of these parties (i.e. anything more than the saving of the cost of the provision of the prop and possibly a trivial residual value).
It is important to ensure that the provision and use of props in BBC programmes is not considered to be product placement and it is essential that production teams adhere to the Ofcom Code, the BBC Editorial Guidelines and the key requirements outlined in this guidance note.
Procurement of Props
Props should not usually be accepted free from manufacturers, dealers or suppliers
To protect the BBC’s editorial integrity, we would normally buy or pay a fee to procure props
We should not normally accept branded items free as props. This applies to products even of very modest value e.g. a small domestic or food item. Any proposal to accept a branded product free as a prop would be for exceptional reasons and should be referred to Editorial Policy
Normally only unbranded items of modest value may be accepted free. They should not normally be accepted free if they are to be featured prominently in a programme or used or shown consistently throughout a series. Referral should be made to Editorial Policy if for some reason there is a proposal to accept free an item of more significant value
Props must normally be returned if they have been provided free or at reduced cost. Only props of trivial value may be retained if they have been obtained free or at reduced cost
If props are procured via a prop provision house a fee should normally be paid to them for their services.
In line with BBC Procurement policy, BBC productions should pay a fee if items are sourced from prop provision agencies. In-house productions should, where appropriate, consult BBC Procurement for a list of preferred prop provision agencies. Items procured from these agencies should be returned.
A Memorandum of Understanding for BBC Productions to use when entering into agreements with prop suppliers can be found on the BBC Procurement site on Gateway. This should be sent to and signed by the prop provider ahead of the supply of the items
If sourcing direct from manufacturers or retailers, items of significant value should be procured on loan and returned to the manufacturers after use.
In some cases items of significant value such as antique furniture, jewellery or pictures for a costume drama may be accepted on loan, but in such cases the BBC or the independent producer should normally pay costs such as transport and insurance and the item must be returned
Whatever the source of the props all arrangements must stand up to scrutiny and accord with the BBC guidelines
Clear records must be kept of how props have been secured, what payment has been made or whether they have been secured free, as it is essential that we can demonstrate that the prop provision could not be deemed to be product placement.
Cars and Other Vehicles
Normally cars/vehicles are procured on loan from lease hire companies, manufacturers, showrooms or prop provision agencies or in some cases from individuals or specialist organisations. A fee should be paid for car provision this may include the cost of valeting, servicing or any adaptations required. BBC Productions should use the BBC Procurement Memorandum of Understanding
Use of a particular make of car/vehicle should be editorially justifiable. Dramas should normally include a range of makes of vehicle
It is important not to dwell on logos or other branded features on vehicles
Unless there is a strong editorial reason different characters in a drama should use vehicles from different manufacturers
Unless there is a strong editorial reason individual contributors or presenters in factual entertainment shows should use vehicles from different manufacturers.
Presenters must not wear any commercially branded clothing on air which has been accepted free.
No clothing, whether branded or not, should be accepted free or at reduced cost with the understanding that it will be worn on air.
It is important to avoid undue prominence in the use of props or services in programmes (both visually and verbally) whether they have been provided free or at reduced cost or purchased.
We cannot give undue prominence to commercial products or services
We cannot endorse or appear to endorse any commercial organisation, its products, activities or services
References to trade marks, brand names, logos or slogans are only acceptable if clearly editorially justifiable
We must not linger on brand names or logos and use verbal references sparingly unless there are very strong editorial reasons for repeated references to a brand
We should normally avoid using both a verbal and a visual reference to branded props or services or those which are identifiable as a specific brand
We must take particular care to minimise any product references in output designed to appeal to children.
Trails and Title Sequences
It is not normally acceptable to feature a branded product in a title sequence. Any exception for strong editorial reasons must be referred in advance to Editorial Policy
Trails are played many times on air and for this reason we avoid showing branded products in trails. Any proposal in exceptional circumstances to use a branded product in a trail must be for very strong editorial reasons and must be referred in advance to Chief Adviser Editorial Policy and the relevant Head of Marketing.
Careful consideration must be given to the potential cumulative effect of showing a product a number of times in a programme as this is likely to lead to undue prominence.
It is also important to guard against the cumulative effect of featuring a specific product, brand or service numerous times across a programme or series as this could lead to undue prominence. There may be a particular problem if a character is associated with a specific branded prop or service or with a prop which is identifiable as being of a specific brand. Referral should be made to Editorial Policy if:
the item is going to be the focus of action for a particular character
the item is to be the subject of a running joke and therefore feature in several episodes or at regular intervals
a character is to be associated with a particular branded item (or one where the brand would be identifiable) in a regular or frequent way. In such cases the procurement of the item must be clearly documented and there should be no arrangements with manufacturers to allow them to reference the use of the item by the character. This is a difficult area where there could be a high risk of undue prominence or the perception of product placement, therefore it is important that referral is made to Editorial Policy.
Great care must be taken if the branded product or service is at the heart of the story, plot or situation. Usually we would seek to use a range of products, not all from the same manufacturer. When using multiple products from the same category (e.g. cars, mobile phones, computers, etc.) it is important that the brands/models used are normally made by different manufacturers.
A very strong editorial justification would be required to concentrate on a single or a small number of branded items at the heart of the story and/or associated with specific characters and referral must be made at an early stage to Editorial Policy.
All arrangements for procuring such items must accord with this guidance and stand up to public scrutiny.
Care must be taken when editing sequences which contain identifiable branded products or services as props, as of course scenes may have been shot out of sequence over a period of time. Particular care should be taken over the final cut. Usually we should avoid repeated use of identifiable branded products or services over time or in adjoining scenes. If there is a strong editorial reason for doing so, referral should be made to Editorial Policy.
Payment should normally be made for any branded product used as a prop in a regular or prominent manner – any exceptions must be referred to the relevant Commissioning Executive and Editorial Policy.
Products which are used to create and dress sets for programmes such as panel shows, chat shows, factual entertainment formats, sit-coms and continuing dramas may be seen frequently over period of time. Therefore there is a greater risk of undue prominence. Particular care must therefore be taken over the sourcing of such items. Unless there is a very strong editorial justification, branded products or products which are clearly of a recognisable brand should be avoided if they are to be seen regularly in close up.
Major items which are likely to be seen in close up regularly such as sofas, coffee tables etc should normally have been bought or hired with a payment being made.
Further advice may be sought from Editorial Policy.