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Ofcom tells programme makers that brands are 'integral part of modern society'

LONDON - Programme makers have been given clear guidance that it is acceptable to include brands after the broadcast regulator declared that they are an 'integral part of modern society'.

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The news came as Ofcom published guidance notes today designed to help broadcasters adhere to the Broadcasting Code.

Under the section dealing with commercial references, Ofcom clearly stated: "Brands are an integral part of modern society and this will inevitably be reflected on television and radio as it is in other media.

"Therefore, there is no absolute prohibition on the appearance of, or reference to, brand products and services within programmes."

However, it does not give free rein to programme makers to include products willy-nilly, because the guidance notes emphasise editorial justification depending on the nature of the programme.

The notes also state that the way in which brands are presented or referred to must not be the subject of negotiation or agreement with the brand owner.

The news comes days after it was revealed that the BBC had airbrushed out a logo on an Apple computer in the programme 'Spooks', amid accusations of rampant product placement.

Questions were also raised over the characters in the MI5 drama programme referring to doing a "Google search", although Ofcom's notes today suggest that this would not be in breach of guidelines. The BBC is investigating the claims.

In August, Ofcom fined Channel 4 £50,000 for an item on 'Richard & Judy' about the drink Red Bull, following a complaints from viewers who said it felt like an ad. Channel 4 admitted it was in breach of the code.

Ofcom's guidance on giving products "undue prominence" suggests keeping references to products brief, giving the name of the item, its cost and availability, but without mentioning specific retailers.

This rule still applies in the case of competitions, which the guidance notes say must "not sound nor look like advertisements".

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