U.K. may lift product-placement ban

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[London] U.K. media regulator Ofcom may consider lifting a 50-year ban on product placement in U.K. TV shows, clearing the way for branded-content deals on the U.K.'s three commercial terrestrial channels and U.K.-based cable and satellite networks, although the BBC's two channels would not be affected. Stephen Carter, Ofcom chief executive and a former managing director of WPP Group's JWT in London, acknowledged the need for "liberalization" of advertiser involvement in TV programming at a conference held in London last week by the U.K.'s advertiser association and the World Federation of Advertisers.

"We have had [product placement] in films for years without viewer detriment," Mr. Carter said. "No one, unless they work in advertising, watches a `Bond' film and goes out and buys an Aston Martin. So, in principle, why not in television?"

Mike Falconer, managing director of Omnicom Group's U.K. branded-content unit Stream, applauded Mr. Carter's support for change. "We need to find new ways of funding commercial television," he said. "Anything other than straight advertising is traditionally thought of as an evil that needs to be suppressed. Stephen is encouraging us to be more grown-up about it."

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