Media Perspective: Television is shaken and stirred by odd Government ruling

By Ian Darby, ian.darby@haymarket.com, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 20 March 2009 12:00AM

Before being named as the new James Bond for the 1973 release of Live And Let Die, Sir Roger Moore was already a prosperous man.

In his entertaining autobiography, My Word Is My Bond, Sir Roger describes his ability to make a buck - a talent occasionally linked with product placement.

This link was most evident when Sir Roger laid a metaphorical golden egg as the boss of Brut Films, a production company launched by Faberge to promote its brand and fragrances through the financing of Hollywood movies. He ran the venture for three major productions: including its first film, A Touch Of Class, which resulted in Glenda Jackson winning an Oscar.

Sir Roger had earlier form. When starring in The Saint during the 60s, he was responsible for Simon Templar driving a Volvo P1800 - simply because Volvo was willing to supply two of the cars to the set (one for the production and the other for Sir Roger's own personal use) after his first choice, Jaguar, declined to take part.

Which goes to show that, as well as funding a healthy bank balance and ski chalet for Sir Roger, product placement was established in the movies long before Daniel Craig snapped on his Omega watch in Quantum Of Solace.

And, albeit in forms other than direct cash payments, it's also been used countless times to help support UK-originated TV programming. Which is why last week's decision by the culture secretary, Andy Burnham, to block product placement in UK television shows seems so odd and surprising. ITV's executive chairman, Michael Grade, might be overplaying the significance of this decision (ITV's problems are unlikely to be solved by a sudden injection of product placement money) but Burnham's concerns over editorial integrity seem irrelevant given that public-service broadcasting standards remain enshrined at a BBC protected by its licence fee.

Sooner or later the Government and industry regulators are going to have to realise that the commercial TV model is broken and accept that advertisers, who fund this content, are demanding greater impact and flexibility in return for this investment. You only have to look at the newspaper world, often held up as the most conservative of businesses, to see that TV risks becoming stranded in a tide of over-sentimental protectionism.

Metro this week celebrates its tenth anniversary - a celebration for a mass news and entertainment format that satisfies a consumer need but is funded solely by advertising content. The success of Metro, and its ability to play with conventional ad formats while maintaining some sense of editorial integrity, only serves to emphasise that TV remains mired in an environment of backward-thinking regulation.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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