Sony Entertainment Television Asia has been pulled up by Ofcom for incorrect use of Product Placement during two episodes of its ‘Weekend Out’ show that is recorded in United Arab Emirates for the channel.
Ofcom received a complaint about the promotion of a restaurant called Al Haj Bundu Khan Restaurant in the UAE during the programme broadcast on 12th October 2012. In this segment, lasting nearly nine minutes, the presenter of the programme, Gaurav, talked about the range of meals available and ate a number of dishes, talking in very positive terms about the food, for example: ���This sauce is something you should definitely not miss. Excellent! Great! This [dish] literally melts in your mouth.� An on-screen caption also gave viewers the telephone number to ring for reservations at the restaurant.
In addition, Ofcom noted in the same programme there was a report, lasting approximately five and a half minutes, which appeared to promote Max, a clothing and home furnishings chain store in the UAE. In this segment, Gaurav described the range of home products available and talked in positive terms about clothing options at the store.
‘Weekend Out’ contained Ofcom�۪s product placement ��P�۪ logo to indicate products had been placed within the programme. However, in its representations to Ofcom, SET confirmed that neither it, the programme producer, nor any person connected with either received payment or other valuable consideration for the inclusion of references to Al Haj Bundu Khan Restaurant and Max during the programme, and that the references had not been subject to any product placement arrangement.
The Licensee said it had placed the ��P�۪ logo in Weekend Out ���as a precautionary measure only.� SET said it knew it was ���not making any financial benefits from the programme. However, as the genre of the programme is centred around showcasing the latest malls, restaurants, designers, trends hot in Dubai, we decided to place the ��P�۪ due to the nature of the content in the show.�
Ofcom had serious concerns about the effusive and prolonged nature of the references in all of the above examples. There was clearly insufficient editorial justification for such references, where the emphasis was plainly on showcasing the positive attributes of the services each company offered, in an advertising style.
We noted in its response that SET said: ���Any known discrepancies are omitted and replaced ��� if time permits.� Ofcom understands there may be time constraints on broadcasters wishing to re-transmit material for a UK audience when it has been originally obtained from abroad. However, it is unacceptable to potentially keep material which does not comply with the Code within a broadcast programme because ��time limitations�۪ do not permit the removal of the content in question.
Ofcom also had concerns about SET�۪s decision to place a product placement ��P�۪ logo in ‘Weekend Out’, which it said it had used as a ���precaution� for any potential issues with the content. Ofcom has published detailed guidance for broadcasters on the product placement rules and the signalling requirements. SET�۪s confusion in this area illustrated shortcomings in its understanding of its compliance responsibilities. In addition, while we noted that SET had admitted that ‘Weekend Out’ was put back in the schedules as a result of ���human error�, Ofcom was concerned that the scheduling team in India put a programme that had been identified as potentially being ���unsuitable� back in the schedule without SET proactively noticing this.
In light of the breaches in this case, Ofcom expects the Licensee to improve its compliance in this area as a matter of urgency.