From February 28, commercial broadcasters will be permitted to include paid-for references to products and services in their programmes. Ofcom has liberalised the rules governing references to brands and products on commercial radio from today.
Broadcasters such as ITV hope to earn millions of pounds in additional revenue from TV product placement, as it will allow real brands such as Heinz or Vodafone to be placed in programmes such as Coronation Street and Hollyoaks.
The move follows new legislation introduced by the government earlier in the year to bring the UK in-line with changes to European broadcasting legislation.
Ofcom has laid out a series of strict rules governing what types of products can be placed, along with the programmes that are eligible. Product placement will be allowed in films (including dramas and documentaries) and TV programmes (including soaps, entertainment and sports shows), but will be prohibited in all children's and news programmes, as well as UK-produced current affairs, consumer affairs and religious shows.
The placement of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and foods or drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar will remain banned under UK legislation, along with medicines and baby milk. Ofcom has also prohibited the paid-for placement of any products and services that cannot be advertised on TV, such as weapons or escort agencies.
The rules state that product placement "must not impair broadcasters' editorial independence and must always be editorially justified". This means shows cannot be "created or distorted so that they become vehicles for the purposes of featuring product placement". Products and services must also not be given undue prominence within programmes.
After the new product placement rules come into force, viewers will be warned that a paid-for reference has been included via an on-screen product placement logo.
The logo, to be published by Ofcom in the New Year, must appear for a minimum of three seconds at the start and end of programmes, as well as around advertisement breaks.
All commercial broadcasters intending to air programmes containing product placement must launch an audience awareness campaign in the New Year, overseen by Ofcom.
On radio, broadcasters are now able to include commercial references to products within shows, as long as listeners are always made aware of what is going on. References to brands and products in news and children's programming will remain prohibited.
In October, Channel 4 and Channel 5 claimed that revenue from TV product placement will be modest, while ITV holds "clear commercial advantage" in attracting the best deals.