U.K. Broadcasters Diverge on Product-Placement Ban

ITV Mulls Requesting Judicial Review; Channel 4 'Supports the Decision'

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- The U.K.'s two biggest commercial broadcasters have had very different reactions to the governing continuing ban on product placement as they battle to bring in advertising revenue and compete with the publicly funded BBC.

ITV wants to look into the decision and may demand a judicial review. Executive Chairman Michael Grade said: "Given the extraordinary economic pressures ITV and others face, we can't let a decision like this simply go through without trying to fight it."

No intention to 'contaminate' shows
Mr. Grade accuses the U.K. government of inconsistency -- U.K. viewers will continue to see product placement on programs made outside the U.K., while domestic producers and broadcasters are denied access to this extra potential revenue stream.

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ITV wants any extra money it can get, and Mr. Grade added, "Our audiences are savvier than the government thinks. It is simply not in our interest to 'contaminate' programs with product placement, which would irritate them and prompt them to switch over."

Channel 4, on the other hand, takes a more high-minded approach. Its chief executive, Andy Duncan (who has just taken a voluntary 35% pay cut), said, "Channel 4 supports the decision. ... We have consistently taken the view that confusing the lines between editorial and advertising raises serious issues of trust for viewers."

While ITV is prepared to scrap for every penny, Channel 4 is pinning its hopes for more funding on a deeper, structural change in British broadcasting. Mr. Duncan said, "Relaxing the [product-placement] rules would deliver a marginal commercial benefit and do little to redress the growing funding imbalance between state [BBC] and advertising funded broadcasting. It is essential that this is properly addressed."

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