Ofcom publishes new TV code

Ofcom says it will look again later in the year at the ban on product placement in TV programmes.

Despite upholding the ban on product placement on TV, Ofcom has promised to review the restrictions as part of its wider review of TV funding.

In its new broadcast code, issued this week, Ofcom refused to relax the codes that cover product placement and sponsorship. However, the report did confirm that the restrictions would be revisited later this year as part of "The Future Funding of Programming" review.

Ofcom said: "The ban on product placement remains in place. However, Ofcom acknowledges the pressure on traditional broadcast advertising as a key source of funding for commercial broadcasters and will consult on product placement in the context of a wider assessment of the broadcast advertising market later this year."

Any change in the current restrictions would need to comply with the European Union's Television Without Frontiers. The directive, which dates from 1989, is also in the process of being reviewed.

Any change will come as welcome news to broadcasters, who are facing a slump in ad revenues through the summer months. Although the potential revenue from product placement is relatively small in comparison with spot revenue, sales directors recognise it could be an attractive tool to entice advertisers to the medium.

The new broadcasting code covers everything from advertising and programme sponsorship to decency and editorial impartiality on radio and television.

In terms of sponsorship, which includes branded content, the new code continues the ban on the sponsorship of news bulletins and current affairs programmes. Betting and gaming companies are also forbidden from becoming broadcast sponsors.

Ofcom has not relaxed the rules that say television sponsorship credits must not contain advertising messages or calls to action, while a sponsor is not allowed to unduly influence the content of a programme.

Elsewhere, the revised code reiterates the need to have a watershed to protect audiences and continues the ban on R18-certificate hardcore pornography.

Stephen Carter, the chief executive of Ofcom, said: "The new code sets out clear and simple rules which remove unnecessary intervention, extend choice for audiences and allow creative freedom for broadcasters."

Ofcom issued its new broadcasting code to supersede the regulations that it inherited from its six predecessor organisations. It interviewed broadcasters, viewers and listeners and received more than 900 responses to its public consultation.