BBC probes product placement in shows

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[London] The BBC is investigating claims that product placement, although banned, is widespread across its programs following a front page expose last week by reporters at London's Sunday Times newspaper, who claimed to have found as many as 50 examples of major brands securing product-placement slots on BBC shows.

The BBC, funded by an annual license fee levied on all TV households, can't run advertising or promotions or accept paid product placement. The Sunday Times reporters, posing as business executives seeking exposure for a new alcoholic drink, approached the producer of a cooking program and reported that he offered prominent placement for the brand in return for footing the bill for travel expenses to shoot a program.

A BBC spokesman said, "The BBC has very clear guidelines about product placement and we take any breach of these guidelines extremely seriously."

However, the Sunday Times claimed the practice is so common that some BBC programs rely on marketers' products to dress characters and decorate sets.

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