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UK likely to reject TV product placement

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has indicated it will reject proposals from the European Union that would allow broadcasters to raise money from product placements in television.

In a speech on Wednesday, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said he could understand why the industry wanted to move towards having branded products on the screen -- which is increasingly common in the United States -- but he could also see the risk.

Broadcasters have been hit in recent years by competition for advertisers and viewers from the Internet and other digital channels and some advertising bodies had touted product placement as one solution.

The European Union has backed moves to allow each member state to decide whether they want to introduce branded products in television programmes and films as a revenue source for product companies.

Under the rules, the practice would remain banned in children’s programmes, news and documentaries throughout the 27 bloc.

“I can see the benefits of product placement and understand why people feel it is an inevitability given the pressures they are under,” Burnham told the Convergence Think Tank.

“But I can also see the costs. There is a risk that product placement exacerbates this decline in trust, and contaminates our programmes.

“As a viewer, I don’t want to feel the script has been written by the commercial marketing director.”

Broadcasters such as ITV and the BBC have been hit in the last 18 months by a scandal surrounding phone-in competitions and they have repeatedly said they need to rebuild trust with the viewer.

Burnham said he would begin a consultation shortly on product placement and was ready to listen to the arguments.

“But here and now I do want to signal that I think there are some lines that we should not cross -- one of which is that you can buy the space between the programmes on commercial channels, but not the space within them,” he said.

“British programming has an integrity that is revered around the world and I don’t think we should put that hard-won reputation up for sale.”

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