EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

Doctors fear product placement on TV will fuel obesity and alcohol abuse

5 February 2010

Doctors fear product placement on TV will fuel obesity and alcohol abuse Doctors' leaders have become the latest in a series of groups to express concerns over plans for US-style product placement on UK television, it emerged today.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that allowing alcohol, gambling and unhealthy foods to be advertised through product placement will fuel obesity and alcohol abuse.

Source: Daily Mail
Date: 5 February 2010

'The BMA is deeply concerned about the decision to allow any form of product placement in relation to alcohol, gambling and foods high in fat, sugar or salt as this will reduce the protection of young people from harmful marketing influences and adversely impact on public health,' the BMA said in a submission to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the plan.

Common: Judges in the hit U.S. show American Idol with Coca Cola cups, but the logos are currently blacked out on British television
'By its nature, product placement allows marketing to be integrated into programmes, blurring the distinction between advertising and editorial, and is not always recognisable.

'Studies show that children are particularly susceptible to embedded brand messages and these operate at a subconscious level.'
The BMA submission has been echoed by Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). He said: 'I am particularly worried about alcohol and unhealthy foods, not just for children but for adults as well. The role modelling on sitcoms and soaps is so important.'

The BMA intervention comes as a Government consultation to examine how product placement could work on UK television was due to close on Friday.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has said a partial lifting of the ban might help commercial broadcasters suffering from a sharp fall in advertising revenue.
A spokeswoman for the DCMS said: 'As Ben Bradshaw has made clear, the Government's initial preference is to allow product placement on television. 'A final decision has not yet been made, but if it is to be allowed, it will be closely regulated, and it will not be permitted in children's programmes. There is also a ban on the placement of tobacco products.'She said the consultation was seeking views on whether additional safeguards over and above those set out in a European directive should be put in place. 'This might include prohibiting placement of certain products, such as alcohol, gambling, or food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar, high fat foods, or prohibiting placement in certain types of programmes,' she said.

Current rules mean UK television broadcasters cannot include product placement in programmes which either they have made or have been made for them.

A European Parliament directive which came into force almost two years ago permitted product placement in sport and light entertainment programmes, if national governments allowed it.

Most other EU nations have now decided to lift restrictions.

Product placement is common in the US. American Idol, the most watched show on US TV, is notable for its placements, including Coca-Cola logos on the cups of the judges. Logos are blacked out when it is shown in the UK.

Product placement is also common in films made and shown in the UK.
Other groups to oppose a lifting of the ban include the Church of England, the Children's Food Campaign, the National Children's Bureau and the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

British Heart Foundation (BHF) chief executive Peter Hollins said: 'At a time when concerns about childhood obesity have never been higher, it makes no sense to introduce a loophole which would provide junk food manufacturers with a new way of peddling unhealthy products.

'The Government's reassurance that product placement will not be allowed during children's programming is of little value as we know it won't cover many of the shows most popular with youngsters.

'The DCMS has previously said no to product placement on UK TV, but by reopening this consultation it is putting the health of the advertising industry above the health of the nation.'

The full statement of the minister can be accessed here

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