Television Broadcasting Tutorial 12


This tutorial follows on from Tutorial 11 and completes our look at the Ofcom Code, which regulates commercial television and radio.  So far, we have looked at elements of the code that offer guidance on how to protect under-18s from adult content, and avoid harm and offence to viewers. We’ve also seen how programme-makers should be fair to contributors and protect their privacy.

Next, we discuss guidance offered to broadcasters about the tricky issue of commercial references in television and radio programmes (e.g. product placement and programme sponsorship). This detail is found in sections nine and ten of the code and ensures editorial independence and the transparency of commercial arrangements.

Section Nine: Commercial References in Television Programming

The aim of this section is to maintain editorial independence and protect audiences from surreptitious advertising and unsuitable sponsorship in television.

  • There should be no undue prominence of a product, service or trade mark (which means the presence of or the manner in which it is referred to in a programme)
  • Product Placement: inclusion of commercial reference to a product in return for payment
  • Prop Placement: reference to a product, service or trade where no-one has received payment and the placement is of no ‘significant value’ to the company


  • Product placement is allowed in films, series made for television, sports programmes, light entertainment programmes
  • Product placement is not allowed in news programmes or children’s programmes
  • Also, it’s not allowed in religious programmes, consumer advice programmes or current affairs programmes
  • Product placement must not influence the content and scheduling of a programme
  • There must always be sufficient editorial justification for the inclusion of product placement in programmes. And editorial content must not be created or distorted to accommodate the product placement
  • References to products must not be promotional or unduly prominent
  • These products cannot be included: cigarettes or other tobacco products, or prescription-only medicines
  • These are not allowed either: alcohol, foods or drinks high in fat, salt or sugar, gambling, infant formula, medicines, electronic or smokeless cigarettes, items associated with cigarettes, and products not allowed to be advertised on television
  • Product placement must be signalled with a clear logo (see images below) at the beginning of the programme, during commercial breaks and at the end

Product Placement Logo

This Morning with logo

  • The donation of a competition prize is likely to be treated as a prop placement as long as the broadcaster or programme-maker receives no benefit beyond the value of the prize itself. There should be no agreement with the prize donor on the amount of exposure or number of references to the prize
  • If payment is received for the prize in he programme, it’s likely to be treated as a product placement
  • Any donation of a prize that forms part of the sponsorship of a programme will be viewed as a product placement


  • News and current affairs programmes must not be sponsored
  • A sponsor must not influence the content or scheduling of a channel or programme; it must not affect the responsibility or editorial independence of the broadcaster
  • Sponsorship must be made clear on credits that are broadcast at the beginning, during and at the end of the programme
  • The credits must be distinct from editorial content
  • Sponsorship credits must not contain advertising messages or calls to action. They must not encourage the purchase or rental of a product. The focus of the credits must be the sponsorship arrangement itself. Reference to the sponsor’s product is there to solely identify the sponsor
  • Sponsorship credits broadcast during programmes must not be unduly prominent. They must include a brief and neutral, visual or verbal statement identifying the sponsor. This is accompanied by a graphic of the name or logo (must be static with no advertising messages or calls to action)
  • Programme-related material (i.e. online content) may be sponsored and the sponsor may be credited when details of how to obtain the material are given. Programme-related material is only promoted when it is editorially justified. The broadcaster must retain responsibility for ensuring the appropriateness of promoting programme-related material


  • Charity appeals that are broadcast free of charge are allowed in programming as long as the organisation can prove its charitable status or, if an emergency appeal, can show a responsible public fund has been set up to deal with it. The charity must also be allowed to advertise on television
  • Viewers must be told the purposes of an appeal and how much it raises
  • All donations must be separately accounted for and used for the purposes for which they were donated
  • Broadcasters must not offer additional benefits or other incentives to donors

Section Ten: Commercial Communications in Radio Programming

  • Programmes that are linked to a commercial arrangement should be signalled so that listeners are fully aware of the deal in place
  • Signalling can take four forms:

a)      Wording – this must be clear, to ensure immediate transparency of the commercial arrangement

b)      Positioning – signalling at the top of each piece of programme subject to it

c)       Frequency – longer output will require signalling at appropriate intervals

d)      Identity (of the third party) – third party’s relevant title stated on air

  • Spot adverts (ads in commercial breaks) must be completely separate from programmes
  • No commercial reference, or material that implies a commercial arrangement, is permitted in or around news bulletins or news desk presentations
  • But you are allowed to identify a news supplier as a way of identifying the news source
  • And commercial arrangements can take place in specialist factual strands that are not news bulletins or news desk presentations but feature in or around such programmes, e.g. travel, sport, finance and weather reports
  • No commercial reference, or material that implies a commercial arrangement, is allowed in radio services aimed at children
  • No commercial arrangement  that involved payment or the provision of something else of value to the broadcaster can be allowed to affect the selection or rotation of music for radio
  • No arrangement can be made with a third party who is banned from advertising on radio
  • Commercial references in programmes must comply with rules on advertising in radio
  • Commercial references that require confirmation or substantiation prior to broadcast must be cleared in the same way as adverts
  • Charity appeals are permitted if free of charge

This information has been gathered from the Ofcom website. Please visit the site to learn more about the Ofcom Code (link below).



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