Broadcasters in product placement outcry

Broadcasters have appealed to the Government to keep an open mind on the issue of product placement, following the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham's comments that it would "contaminate" programming and lead to a "decline in trust" among viewers.

Appearing to rule out a relaxation of UK rules banning product placement, Burnham said that while the Government would consult on the issue after a new European directive opened the way for liberalisation, product placement was a "line that we should not cross".

Reacting to the remarks, ITV said: "We welcome the forthcoming consultation process and will take an active part in that debate. As with any consultation process, we would expect all parties to approach this with an open mind."

Privately, however, ITV sources are disappointed that Burnham has adopted such a hard line. Ofcom has estimated that a relaxation of UK rules on product placement would generate around £100 million a year in extra revenue for broadcasters. ITV's share price was hit following Burnham's speech.

Agencies expressed concern over the comments. Mark Eaves, the managing director of the content agency Drum PHD, said: "This feels a retrogressive step for the UK when, actually, positive regulation would deliver greater transparency to the viewer."