Primeval writer Hodges calls for product placement ban to be lifted

Leading TV writer Adrian Hodges, whose credits include ITV’s Primeval and Survivors for the BBC, has argued product placement should be allowed on UK television as a way to generate income for struggling production companies and commercial broadcasters.

The writer said introducing it in a “tightly controlled and regulated” way would help address the financial pressures broadcasters are facing in light of a weakening advertising market.

Although admitting he is still “deeply uneasy” about the concept, Hodges said his own attitude towards product placement had changed in the last two years and claimed writers and producers no longer have the “luxury of objecting to it outright”.

“The state of ITV, Channel 4 and Five – and many independent companies – is now so alarming that I really think the time has come when, if it generates more income for both the broadcasters and ultimately the indies, we have to consider allowing it in some form,” he said.

Hodges’ comments follow an announcement this month that the government is to continue to ban product placement on UK television, despite having the option to introduce it as part of the European Union’s Audio Visual Media Services Directive.

The government has said it will review its position in 2011/12, but has been criticised by ITV for not lifting the ban sooner, with executive chairman Michael Grade arguing that some programmes on British television already feature product placement.

Hodges agrees, claiming audiences already think it takes place in UK programmes. “Sometimes, when I look at an episode of prime-time TV, I wonder why we are being so puritanical about it, given the wide range of products on display for free,” he said.

Referring to Primeval, on which he is also a producer, Hodges said the series regularly featured a particular brand of car, and thereby promoted it, even though ITV and the production company had not benefitted financially.

“I honestly think we could have made some money from the choice of car – or ITV could at any rate – without the integrity of the programme being damaged in the slightest,” he said.

Hodges made his comments in an email, seen by The Stage, to the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Deputy general secretary at the guild, Anne Hogben, admitted Hodges’ opinions reflect a change in many writers’ attitudes towards product placement, but said the guild on the whole remained opposed to the idea.

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