BBC probe gives clean chit on product placement allegations

MUMBAI: The BBC has completed an investigation into allegations of product placement and product prominence made in the Sunday Times in the UK.

The investigation, which was conducted by BBC's chief adviser for editorial policy Claire Powell, began after a report in the Sunday Times last month claimed that businesses paid thousands of pounds to get their products shown on BBC TV programmes.



The investigation found that a number of people in independent production companies working for the BBC were offered an unspecified payment by an undercover Sunday Times reporter in exchange for featuring products on air and the BBC "is deeply reassured" that in every case this offer was refused. In none of the programmes investigated did anyone give guarantees that a product would be featured if it was supplied for free or at a reduced cost.

In many cases where the Sunday Times alleged that products seen in programmes had been supplied for free by companies, the investigation found that they had either in fact been paid for by the programme, or in one case was personal property lent to the programme by a member of the production team.

The investigation found that in every case where products had been sourced for free, this was done in accordance with the BBC's guidelines. However, the investigation found that in some of the programmes reviewed there were instances of product prominence which were not fully editorially justified.

Whilst inclusion of the products was justified, the way that they were shot went beyond the minimum visibility recommended in the BBC's guidelines. In no instance was there an inducement to feature them on air.

In addition, the investigation noted that an independent programme maker had acknowledged he had been unwise to entertain a hypothetical conversation with an undercover reporter about featuring a product in a programme in production.



However, it found evidence that the programme maker had rightly pointed out the BBC's guidelines to the reporter and in addition in a meeting immediately following the discussion had made clear to his programme team that the offer was not to be pursued.

In any event, no product appeared on air as a result of the approach and no guarantees were ever given. The BBC will issue more comprehensive guidance to programme makers on product placement and product prominence and to heighten the awareness of programme makers in this area in the light of this investigation.

BBC Television director Jana Bennett, said, "Viewers expect realism in modern drama and entertainment and the BBC's guidelines set out how products may appear in programmes to achieve this.

"I am satisfied that this thorough investigation has confirmed to us that production teams working for the BBC acted with integrity in dealing with offers of payment in exchange for featuring products.



"However, I expect all BBC television programmes to maintain the highest standards of compliance in relation to the BBC's guidelines. To ensure this, constant vigilance is necessary.

"I accept the recommendation of the investigation that a programme to ensure increased awareness of the BBC's rules on product placement and product prominence should begin immediately.

"We will also work on ensuring that where necessary programme makers are given additional support in ensuring that programmes fully comply with our rules before transmission."

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