BBC Trust revises rules for brands on Auntie

The BBC Trust has revised its editorial guidelines covering product prominence, following complaints about the promotion of commercial products such as the film release of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'.

Harry Potter day on Radio 1 casued complaints
Harry Potter day on Radio 1 casued complaints
In guidelines published today the BBC Trust said: "Consideration must be given to the potential cumulative effect when planning to feature a specific product, brand or service numerous times on our output over a limited period, to ensure this does not lead to undue prominence."

A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust said the explicit guidelines about product prominence took into account a number of complaints including the promotion of a new CD by the band Coldplay and a concert by the band U2.

In June the BBC Trust ruled that BBC Radio 1's Harry Potter Day in 2009 breached the editorial guidelines relating to product prominence but said it did not amount to an endorsement of a commercial product.

The BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee said though each of the individual Harry Potter programmes complied with guidelines; the timing of the coverage combined with the cumulative effect meant the coverage was in breach.

Today’s rules explicitly state the terms "brand" and "product" may also include an artist, performer, or an artistic work such as a film or record, particularly around the time of a new release.

The BBC Trust has added a new requirement that when planning to feature a specific product, brand or service over a number of programmes or other content, the plans must be referred to the relevant controller who can decide whether it is editorially justified.

Though the BBC is not permitted to make income from product placement, it can buy US films and programming which does feature product placement, but as the BBC is not gaining an income from the products, it is not required to signal its use.

The editorial guidelines also mention product placement for the first time and confirm all programming containing product placement must be in accordance with the detailed BBC Guidance on Product Placement, the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and Government Regulations on Product Placement.

A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust said the BBC is in the process of reviewing its guidance on acquisitions and in dialogue with Ofcom about the renewal of the Broadcasting Code, expected later this year or early 2011.