Monday 20 December 2010

Product Placement Allowed on UK Television From 2011

By Peter Feuilherade

The United Kingdom broadcasting regulator has confirmed that product placement will be allowed on UK commercial television from 2011.

ITV Central HQ, Birmingham - IMAGE: Zukeylukey

Product placement, long a staple of U.S. commercial broadcasting and common in many European countries, will be allowed for the first time in commercial TV programmes produced in the UK, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom confirmed on December 20, 2010.
Product placement allows programme-makers to take payment to promote products, services and trade marks in TV programmes.

Paid-for references to products and services will be permitted from the end of February 2011. The move follows years of lobbying from commercial TV.

The BBC, which is publicly funded, will not feature any such deals. However, products could be inserted digitally after production for BBC programmes sold to commercial channels.

Rules and Restrictions

After months of consultation with the industry, Ofcom published a set of rules governing product placement, including what can and cannot be shown. The regulator said it had also liberalised the rules on paid-for references to brands and products in radio programmes. "Both sets of rules will enable commercial broadcasters to access new sources of revenue, whilst providing protection for audiences," Ofcom added.

The new rules include restrictions on the types of products that can be placed; restrictions on the types of programmes in which products can be placed; and limits on the way in which products can be seen and referred to in programmes.

Product placement will be allowed in films (including dramas and documentaries), TV series (including soaps), entertainment shows and sports programmes. But it will be prohibited in all children’s and news programmes and in UK-produced current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programmes.

The product placement of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, foods or drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, medicines and baby milk is banned by UK legislation. Ofcom has also prohibited the paid-for placement of products and services that cannot be advertised on television, such as weapons or escort agencies.

The rules state that "product placement must not impair broadcasters’ editorial independence and must always be editorially justified". This means, Ofcom explained, that programmes "cannot be created or distorted so that they become vehicles for the purposes of featuring product placement".

The TV rules reflect new UK legislation which followed the government’s decision earlier in 2010 to allow product placement in UK TV programmes, as a result of changes to European broadcasting legislation.

Broadcasters Hope for Extra "Millions"

Broadcasters such as ITV hope to earn millions of pounds in additional revenue from TV product placement, said the Digital Spy website. It recalled that in October 2010, Channel 4 and Channel 5 claimed that revenue from TV product placement would be "modest", while ITV holds "clear commercial advantage" in attracting the best deals.

The Guardian said estimates of the size of the UK product placement market varied. It cited figures from MirriAd, a product placement company, claiming that it should be worth at least 5% of the total UK TV advertising market, as it is in the US. That would give it an initial annual value of 150 milllion pounds (233 million US dollars), although that amount is forecast to grow substantially.

The UK website Media Week on December 3 2010 reported that television had been the biggest benefactor of increased advertising spending in 2010, according to a report by the world's largest advertising media company GroupM, with annual growth of 14% expected in 2010.

Concerns About "Integrity"

Initial consumer and viewer reaction to the new rules was a mix of suspicion and concern.

The Guardian described the relaxation of the rules as "controversial" in some sectors.

The paper quoted Jocelyn Hay, the president of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, as saying that her group was "concerned about the integrity of television programmes," and adding: "Advertising is transparent - you can't be sure that product placement has not had an influence on the story line".

Comments on The Guardian website were mainly negative to the new rules, with one reader bemoaning it as "this latest manifestation of rampant consumerism", and another predicting that audience figures for commercial TV would decline because of viewer hostility.

Others, however, argued that product placement was no worse than TV advertising breaks, print adverts in newspapers, or commercial endorsements at sporting events.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Saudi Arabia plans "socially acceptable" TV


By Peter Feuilherade

This article first appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Middle East magazine (London).

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to launch a free digital terrestrial TV (DTT) platform for domestic audiences, along the lines of Britain's Freeview service.

The service, due to launch in 2012, will offer "selected, socially acceptable channels" from the region, and possibly some foreign programmes, according to a Saudi deputy minister.

A domestic DTT service could offer an alternative to what some Saudi commentators see as the escalating penetration of "undesirable" content into the Kingdom's households via the internet, satellite TV and mobile devices such as the BlackBerry.

This comes against the backdrop of major changes in the Saudi broadcasting sector. Measures are under way to transform state-run Saudi TV to operate on a "corporatised" or semi-commercial basis. More private TV and radio channels are in the pipeline too.

Explosion of choice

Saudi viewers, like the rest of the Middle East and North Africa audience, have access to about 500 satellite TV channels in Arabic, in addition to nine TV and radio channels from the government-run domestic service.

As well as the leading pan-Arab channels, the foreign stations on which they can watch news and current affairs programmes in Arabic include the BBC, the US government-funded Al-Hurra, France 24, Russia Today, Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Japan’s NHK World, China’s CCTV and Iran’s Al-Alam.

In mid-2010, Saudi media magnate Prince Walid Bin-Talal announced plans to launch a new 24-hour TV news channel in partnership with Rupert Murdoch's Fox network, to focus on the Arab world.

And Sky News - which like Fox News is owned partly by Murdoch's News Corporation empire - also plans to launch an Arabic-language news channel in the region in 2011.

"Alternative, acceptable" TV programmes

The Saudi government is currently evaluating a "Broadcast Act" which would specify how private channels would be broadcast locally and terrestrially, and what kind of content the future DTT platform would carry.

Dr Riyadh Najm, assistant deputy minister for engineering in the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information, said in an interview with a Middle East broadcasting industry website in September 2010: "The majority of people want programmes that are socially acceptable, that are good for the family and at the same time provide reasonable entertainment.

"Then, you don’t need to go to satellite, you just go to digital terrestrial."

The Ministry’s goal was to offer around 30 channels, which would cover the main content areas and would be suitable for family viewing.

Dr Najm said the intention was "not to pressure satellite TV companies, but to offer an alternative that is free and acceptable to the country’s population".

Although the Kingdom has the technical infrastructure in place for a DTT service, only a few government channels are currently available on the platform.

The proposed Saudi service has been compared to the UK's Freeview, which offers around 50 channels from a combination of public service broadcasters, free-to-air commercial operators and satellite operators. Viewers pay a one-off fee of about 50 dollars for a set-top box, but then receive the channels for free.

UK-based broadcasting analyst Chris Forrester noted this was not the first time that Saudi Arabia had attempted to control incoming satellite TV signals. "More than 10 years ago a Saudi-backed MMDS [multichannel multipoint distribution system] scheme, SaraVision, was created to distribute TV signals, but internal rivalries between various ministries scuppered the plan," he recalled.

Media privatisation

Saudi Arabia has evolved into a leading media and broadcasting market in the Middle East.

It is the Gulf's biggest market, and has its highest GDP and second highest advertising spend, which is expected to grow by 10 per cent annually until 2013.

The Kingdom has 8.5 million internet users. It is the second most connected country in the Arab world, in terms of total penetration of household main phone lines, mobile phones and internet use, according to the Amman-based Arab Advisors Group.

As well as licences being offered for five private FM radio stations, licences for private satellite TV stations are in the pipeline.

The Ministry of Culture and Information also intends in due course to privatise its nine channels, in order to circumvent restrictive regulatory conditions currently impeding the sector, and to permit Saudi TV to generate revenue and operate at a profit. But although the idea of commercialisation was mooted some years ago, the Ministry is still in talks with other government bodies.

Said Bacho, managing director of the Middle East division of the US transmitter and equipment manufacturer Harris Broadcast, said in an interview with the Arabian Business website that the Saudi private broadcasting sector had only emerged recently: "It will grow but it won't necessarily overshadow the government operations, which are very large. However, many people did not expect Saudi TV to grow as fast as it has, so perhaps the private sector will surprise some people too."

"Morality" in mass media

The impact of unregulated mass media on Saudi society is increasingly being debated in the Kingdom.

At the end of September 2010, the Shoura Council (Consultative Assembly), the 150-strong legislative body appointed by King Abdullah, decided "to further study ways to ensure a sense of morality can remain in the Kingdom's mass media", the Saudi English-language Arab News reported.

"The council is aware of the imminent danger of the multimedia and mass media ... and their implications on the cultural, social and economic life of people in the Kingdom," said Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al-Yahya, the council's assistant secretary-general.

The Shoura members suggested "creating a central body to codify the moral and social content of the mass media, which includes mobile phones, TVs, the internet, radio and other electronic devices that can be misused."

Separately, Saudi Arabia is mulling the idea of setting up an official television channel and radio station for accredited Muslim scholars to issue fatwas, or religious decrees.

The TV channel would be part of the Kingdom's efforts to stop unauthorised clerics issuing unorthodox fatwas. In August 2010, King Abdullah ruled that only royally approved clerics would be allowed to issue fatwas.

Al-Jazeera English Licensed To Broadcast In India

Al-Jazeera English TV is to air in India, the world’s second most populated country.

Al-Jazeera HQ, Doha

By Peter Feuilherade

The Qatar-based satellite TV news channel Al-Jazeera English (AJE) has been granted a licence to broadcast in India, where it says it has a potential reach of 115 million households on satellite and cable TV platforms.

The move will increase AJE’s potential global audience by 50 per cent.

A spokesman for India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry said on December 7 2010 that the ministry granted the broadcasting licence the previous week, allowing cable and satellite operators in India to add the channel to their line-up.

When AJE launched in November 2006, it applied for permission to downlink in India as well, which India’s Home Ministry refused initially, citing “security considerations”.

Diana Hosker, Al-Jazeera head of distribution for the region, said: “With the prospect of reaching an estimated 115 million households in India, this important market will be significant as we continue to expand our global reach.”

Al-Jazeera English is currently available in over 100 countries. Its potential audience exceeds 220 million households around the world.

Coinciding with the signing of an Indo-French audiovisual agreement on December 6 2010, India has also licensed the French news channel France 24 to broadcast in English in India. France 24, which launched in 2006, is broadcast globally around-the-clock with the same content in French, English and Arabic.

Targeting India’s 300 Million English-Speakers

Al Anstey, AJE managing director, said the channel was targeting the more than 300 million people in India who speak English.

We are planning an extensive marketing, brand awareness and grass roots campaign in India early next year…in print, digital, broadcast and outdoor platforms,” he said in remarks quoted by Chennai-based newspaper The Hindu.

We want people to start recognising us as an international channel dedicated to good journalism…which does not look at the world through any particular prism,” he added.

Anmol Saxena, AJE bureau chief in Delhi, told The Hindu: “We have received letters of intent from cable operators in Kerala, Mumbai; very strong intents from Kolkata and the West Bengal region, so you can see that all parts of the country are represented.”

The media industry website said: “For Al-Jazeera, it has been a four-year wait. The India feed will allow Indian audiences to view the channel that is known for a slant to news that is different from the Western style of presentation.”

Al-Jazeera Denies Claims Posted on Wikileaks

Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language news channel, launched in 1996, has the largest number of viewers among pan-Arab satellite news stations.

But the Wikileaks affair has put the spotlight on the channel’s relationship with the government of Qatar, which bankrolls the broadcaster.

US diplomatic memos published in the British newspaper The Guardian on December 6 2010 as part of the WikiLeaks revelations claimed that Al-Jazeera changed its coverage to suit Qatari foreign policy.

Qatar is using the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera as a bargaining chip in foreign policy negotiations by adapting its coverage to suit other foreign leaders and offering to cease critical transmissions in exchange for major concessions, US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks claim,” The Guardian report said.

It added: “The memos flatly contradict Al-Jazeera's insistence that it is editorially independent despite being heavily subsidised by the Gulf state.”

Al-Jazeera denied the claims, saying: "This is the US embassy's assessment, and it is very far from the truth. Despite all the pressure Al-Jazeera has been subjected to by regional and international governments, it has never changed its bold editorial policies which remain guided by the principles of a free press."

Tuesday 7 December 2010

China To Be World's Third Largest Ad Market – Forecast


Global advertising spending is on the rebound, with much of the growth coming from developing countries, says a new forecast by Zenith Optimedia.

Shanghai TV Tower  (IMAGE - Tingting Sullivan)

By Peter Feuilherade

Global advertising spending will rebound to reach almost 450 billion US dollars by the end of 2010, and hit 500 billion dollars in 2012, the media buying group Zenith Optimedia forecast on December 6 2010.

China, now the world's fourth largest advertising economy, will overtake Germany as the world's third-largest advertising market after the United States and Japan.

And markets in developing countries are predicted to grow much faster than developed markets, accounting for almost 36 per cent of all advertising spending by 2013, up from 31.5 per cent in 2010.

2010 Recovery “Surprisingly Strong”

“After the surprisingly strong 4.9 per cent recovery this year, we predict annual growth of between 4.6 and 5.2 per cent for the next three years.

“Global ad expenditure [is] to exceed the 2008 peak in 2012,” said Zenith Optimedia, which is owned by the Publicis group.

Zenith added that internet advertising would grow three times faster than the market as a whole, but advertising expenditure in newspapers and magazines could fall by 2 per cent between 2010 and 2013.

A separate global forecast from the media buying agency network Group M, owned by WPP, said that at some time in 2012, the internet would overtake newspapers as the second biggest global advertising medium behind television, British newspaper The Guardian reported.

Group M's forecast, using slightly different measures, predicted that the 500-billion-dollar mark for global spending would be reached at some point in 2011.

Double Digit Growth in Asia-Pacific

ZenithOptimedia said growth over the next three years would be driven by developing markets, with Asia-Pacific set to grow by 23 per cent, the Middle East and Africa by 24 per cent, and Latin America by 26 per cent. Excluding Japan, the advertising market in the Asia-Pacific region would grow by 36 per cent between 2010 and 2013.

China's fast-growing economy would result in an increase in advertising spending of more than 50 per cent, from 22.6 billion dollars in 2010 to 34.2 billion dollars in 2013.

"The key result of this update is the continued rise of developing markets and digital media, and their central role in driving global growth," said Steve King, Zenith Optimedia’s worldwide CEO, in a statement accompanying the forecast.

Seven Asia-Pacific markets - China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand - were now showing double digit growth for 2010, the Australian AdNews website noted.

The main growth media this year in Asia-Pacific have been TV (8.5 per cent) and online (15.2 per cent).

As the global media and entertainment industry publication The Hollywood Reporter noted on December 6 2010, “forecasters expect developing countries, such as Brazil, China, Russia and India, to remain key engines of global growth in the coming years.”

Meanwhile, the US-based company Google, which threatened to pull out of China in a dispute over censorship, said its revenue in the country was growing as demand for display advertising and export marketing helped to add customers, Bloomberg news agency reported on December 7 2010.

“The last 12 months have convinced us about the revenue opportunities the Chinese market holds for us,” Daniel Alegre, Google’s vice-president for Asia-Pacific, said in an interview in Beijing. “Not only are we in China, but we are investing heavily in China,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Asia-Pacific Pay-TV Industry Says Business Booming

Friday 3 December 2010

UN Says Global Temperatures At Near-Record Levels

2010 is set to be one of the warmest three years on record, the UN weather agency has predicted.

African Sahel drought - IMAGE - NASA

By Peter Feuilherade
As the United Kingdom and much of northern Europe shivered in an early blast of wintry weather, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on December 2 2010 that temperatures during the year so far had reached the highest levels in several regions since climate records began in 1850.

The global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for January–October was estimated at 0.55 degrees Celsius, plus or minus 0.11 degrees, above the 1961–1990 annual average of 14 degrees Celsius – at present the highest on record, the WMO said.

The 2010 figure was higher than the 1998 January-October increase of 0.53 degrees Celsius and the 2005 rise of 0.52 degrees Celsius.

The data, compiled with input from WMO’s 189 member states, was released as officials from around the world gathered in Cancun, Mexico, for the UN's annual climate change conference.

Arctic, North Africa, South Asia Worst Hit

Surface air temperatures over land were above normal across most parts of the world, the report noted. Two major regions had recorded the most extreme rises.

"Recent warming has been especially strong in Africa and parts of Asia, and parts of the Arctic," the WMO said.

In parts of west Greenland and the eastern Canadian Arctic, mean annual temperatures were 3 degrees Celsius or more above normal. And across most of the northern half of Africa and southern Asia, as far east as the western half of China, they were 1 to 3 degrees Celsius above normal.

Below Normal in Northern Europe

But it has been the coolest year so far since 1996 for northern Europe, including the UK, Germany, France and Norway, and since 1998 for northern Asia, mainly owing to below-normal temperatures during the winter.

The year also saw the third-lowest Arctic summer sea ice on record after 2007 and 2008, reached on September 19 2010 with an area of 4.6 million square kilometres, more than 2 million square kilometres below the long-term average.

In contrast, the extent of Antarctic sea ice was generally slightly above normal, the WMO noted.

US Data Confirms Warming Trend

BBC News environment correspondent Richard Black said that the WMO figures were in line with two major US analyses of global temperature showing that up until the end of October, 2010 was "the warmest year in the instrumental record going back to 1850".

The global average temperature was 0.58 degrees Celsius above the average for 1961-90, according to NASA, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the figure at 0.54 degrees Celsius above.

The UK record, kept by the UK Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, has 2010 in joint first place with 1998, when the El Nino effect brought colder than average water to the top of the eastern Pacific Ocean, lowering temperatures globally.

Professor Mark Maslin, director of the Environment Institute at University College London, told the BBC that the UN figures would not please "those who hoped that global warming would just go away".

"It shows that the science underpinning the negotiations at Cancun is correct, and adds further weight to the need for a globally negotiated and accepted deal on carbon emissions," he added.

"Worst Case" Scenario

On November 28 2010, an international team of researchers warned that global temperatures could soar by 4 degrees Celsius by the 2060s "in the worst case of global climate change" and require an annual investment of 270 billion dollars just to contain rising sea levels, Reuters reported.

A rapid rise on this scale would be double the 2 degrees Celsius ceiling set by 140 governments at a UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, and would disrupt food and water supplies in many parts of the globe.

"Across many sectors - coastal cities, farming, water stress, ecosystems or migration - the impacts will be greater" than at 2 degrees, wrote Mark New of Oxford University in England, who led the international team.

In remarks cited by the British newspaper The Independent, WMO Director-General Michael Jarraud said the fact that the last decade had been the hottest ever was an indicator of a man-made impact on the global climate. "Based on climate models, it cannot be explained unless you take human emissions of greenhouse gases into account," he said.

The final ranking of 2010 will not become clear until November and December data are analysed in early 2011. But global November temperatures were at "near record levels", the WMO said.