In January 2007 it seemed that the way was clear for legal paid-for product placement across the European Union after the latest version of the draft ‘Audio Visual Media Services Directive’ was agreed by Euro MPs. But EU ministers have taken a different view.
Topic: Product placement
Who: EU ministers
When: February 2007
EU ministers of culture and the media met in Berlin on 12 February 2007 to discuss issues arising from the proposed modernisation of the EU Television without Frontiers Directive.
According to an official EU release, one of the topics discussed was product placement. The European Parliament had previously voted to approve a shift in the Directive, so as to permit member states to allow product placement subject to certain restrictions and to compulsory disclosure requirements.
The EU ministers were reported by the advertising trade press as having now gone against this vote, and saying that product placement "should continue to be prohibited".
Is this the end of the line for the proposed lifting of the EU product placement ban?
As ever, getting definitive information as to developments on draft EU legislation is not an easy task. But an analysis of the official EU release on 12 February and of Minister Bernd Neumann's speech of 30 January 2007 at the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education may give some clues as to where things are now going.
Minster Neumann's speech included the following paragraph:
"As you know, the issue of so-called paid product placement has, amongst others, been the subject of heated debate not only in the Parliament but also in the Council. Under the original draft, product placement was supposed to be allowed. During our discussions in the EU Council of Ministers we agreed on a compromise tabled by the Finnish Presidency. Product placement is now to be banned in principle in television films and series but every Member State may allow it in national law, subject to certain conditions. I am aware that Parliament sees this in a rather different light. I am convinced that we can bring our views closer together. The difference between our positions is smaller than it looks."
The official release of 12 February stated:
"The ministers agreed that product placement in television programmes should continue to be prohibited; exceptions could be made only in certain cases and in compliance with clear rules. Product placement must be clearly identified at least at the start and end of a television programme. The ministers found the idea of displaying a neutral logo every 20 minutes to be counterproductive, as it would increase the advertising impact."
We wonder whether in fact the Ministers' meeting in fact did no more than to endorse the views expressed by Neumann two weeks earlier, but to reject the European Parliament's notion of an on-screen disclosure of product placements every 20 minutes during a programme.
With Neumann apparently hopeful that the new Directive can be finalised by May this year, we hope that the position will be clarified sooner rather than later.
Why this matters:
Unless the Directive changes to permit product placement, Ofcom will not be in a position to make any significant change to its rules on this in the UK, no matter how much broadcasters, production companies and brands may wish for this.