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Product Placement and the AVMS Directive

03 September 2009

The rules relating to product placement in EU television programming are undergoing significant reform. Under the Audiovisual Media Services (“AVMS”) Directive, adopted on 11th December 2007, Member States are expressly permitted to allow product placement in respect of certain broad categories of programme for the first time.

The AVMS Directive, a much revised version of the so-called Television Without Frontiers (TVWF) Directive, must be implemented in Member States by 19th December 2009. The Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is consulting on a number of issues relating to UK implementation, including the question of whether product placement should be permitted. In this InBrief, we look at the potential impact of the new regime in the UK, and also the implications should the government decide not to give product placement the green light.

The existing UK law

Product placement has been defined by Ofcom as “the inclusion of, or reference to, a product or service within a [TV] programme in return for payment or other valuable consideration to the programme maker or broadcaster (or any representative or associate of them).”

Although some other EU Member States have taken a more relaxed view, the UK approach to product placement in domestic programming has been that it is clearly prohibited as a result of the requirement that editorial and advertising material should be kept strictly segregated. This principle, which originates in the TVWF Directive, is reflected in Section 10 of the Ofcom Broadcast Code, which states that “product placement is prohibited”...

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