- Q. What's the difference between undue prominence and product placement?
A. "Undue prominence" occurs when there is insufficient editorial justification for the degree of prominence (verbal and/or visual) given to a commercial name, logo, product or service in a programme, for example viewers get the impression that a programme is giving a degree of prominence to a particular commercial product or service that is not justified or explained by the editorial context. "Product placement" occurs when a producer and/or broadcaster receives a payment or benefit (in cash or in kind) to include a verbal and/or visual reference(s) to a commercial name, logo, product or service in a programme.
- Q. How can I stop guests wearing branded clothing, particularly celebrities?
A. This can be a sensitive matter, which needs to be raised diplomatically but clearly at an early stage. Programme-makers should explain the broadcaster's obligation under the Code to avoid undue prominence. If all else fails, creative shooting and editing, with close-ups on the face, framing logos out of shot, pixilation and even editing material out may be required.
- Q. A company is willing to supply the programme with ‘freebies'. Can they be given a programme credit?
A. Possibly, yes. We can accept products for use within programmes for free (and such arrangements don’t count as product placement) as long as there is no payment (or other valuable consideration) to Channel 4 or to the programme-makers (or connected person or company), the product or service being supplied does not represent a significant value, beyond the saving made by the supply of the product, and there is no agreement with the supplier guaranteeing exposure to the product. In such circumstances, where the identity of the product is not apparent from the programme, we may consider giving a brief "With thanks to X" credit in the end credits of the programme, providing it is in the usual credit font and no logos are used. Programme-makers must seek advice from the programme lawyer before accepting free or discounted goods.
- Q. Can advertisements be included in programmes?
A. Yes, providing it is clearly understood to be an advertisement or extract from an advertisement, its inclusion is editorially justified in the particular context and undue prominence to the product or service is avoided.
- Q. What is a sponsored programme and why does it matter?
A. A programme is considered to be sponsored if a third party has contributed towards the cost of making or broadcasting the programme with a view to promoting its brand. That can be done in a number of ways e.g. by paying the broadcaster a significant sum of money for the privilege of having sponsor credits before and after the programme (and in and out of the ad breaks); by directly paying part of a programme’s production costs; or by an advertiser paying the entire costs of production e.g. advertiser-funded programming. In all cases, there is an obligation for the sponsorship arrangement to be made clear to viewers and there must be no promotional references (verbal or visual) to the sponsor within the programme. Sponsors may have their brand, product or service product placed in the programme, be credited as prize donors and/or have their products/services as prizes in viewer competitions in programmes they are sponsoring, but particular care needs to be taken to ensure that the cumulative degree of prominence is justified. Advice should be sought at an early stage from the programme lawyer.
- Q. Is it permissible to mention that the presenter of a programme has a book published which is "available in all good bookshops"?
A. It depends on the connection between the programme and the book, and whether the broadcaster has assumed responsibility for the book. Programme-related material (books, magazines, DVD's, web sites etc.) can be promoted on air if it is "directly derived from a specific programme" and the broadcaster has "responsibility" for the programme-related material. However, if the book in question did not fall within the definition of programme-related material e.g. the book was an autobiography of the presenter, published independently of the broadcaster, it could not be promoted as programme-related material. This can be a tricky area and advice should be sought from the programme lawyer.
- Q. A car manufacturer has offered us a top of the range car as a prize for a viewer competition. Is this permissible?
A. Commercial products and/or services can be given away as prizes in viewer competitions in programmes and in presentation time, providing the commercial references (verbal and visual) are "brief and secondary". Programmes should not promote the product or service and should describe it without giving it undue prominence. As a guide, two combined verbal and visual references to the commercial names in one programme part is permissible. Advice should be sought from the programme lawyer on the cumulative effect of such references occurring in more than one part.
- Q. Can broadcasters promote their other commercial channels, video on demand, mobile services and websites?
A. Yes. Ofcom rules on cross-promotion clarify that broadcasters can do so within presentation time (but not within programmes), providing the service is "broadcasting-related" i.e. that the service delivers content similar to that delivered on a television or radio service. Some material e.g. websites or references to a programme showing on another channel, may be both a broadcasting-related service as well as programme-related material.
Possible examples include a television channel; a radio station; video-on-demand; content delivered over a mobile or broadband platform; a website that provides content clearly and directly related to a broadcasting-related service e.g. a channel's own website.
In general, the principle that all platforms on which the broadcast-related service is available should be promoted equally should be followed, as this is a way of avoiding undue prominence being given to one platform over others.