Recent Ofcom case reports underline that even the most established UK broadcasters are still going seriously wrong on the rules for sponsorship and commercial name checks. Nick Johnson, in a message brought to you by Osborne Clarke reports.
Who: Ofcom, ITV, Paddy Power
When: September 2007
Law stated as at: 30 September 2007
Ofcom's latest Broadcast Bulletin (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/obb92/issue92.pdf) reveals a surprising number of instances of broadcasters breaching Ofcom rules on separation of advertising and programme material.
Perhaps most surprisingly, ITV was hauled up for a reference to its football sponsor while the credits for an unrelated programme (Coronation Street) were running.
During the closing titles for the soap, the credits had moved to a split screen, with the left hand side providing information that live football was coming next on ITV1. The announcer said "For all the latest football news, go to itv.com/football, sponsored by Paddy Power online betting", and a separate screen flashed up in the top left corner with Paddy Power's logo.
ITV argued that this was permissible as the credit related to programme-related material under rule 10.8 and that the usage here was "in or around" the football programming as it was within a "coming next" credit for the football.
Ofcom however held that this was stretching the meaning of "in or around" a step too far and that accordingly the reference to Paddy Power and the football website during the Coronation Street credits was a breach of rule 10.3.
Rule 10.3 of the Ofcom Code states that "Products and services must not be promoted in programmes. This rule does not apply to programme-related material." Ofcom's guidance on programme-related material states: "Programme-related material may only be promoted in or around the relevant programme."
Why this matters:
This ruling provides useful guidance as to Ofcom's approach to split screen activity and the scope of the "programme-related material" exception.
It will be interesting to see how the Ofcom rules will be adapted if the UK decides in due course to take advantage of the product placement relaxation proposed in the draft Audio-Visual Media Services Directive.