Right, well then, what seems to have happened is that Ben Bradshaw, curses be upon his name, has announced that product placement will now be allowed to appear on British television (in case you're new to the blog, here's a list of reasons why I think product placement is a really bad thing, for program creators and viewers alike).
Full government statement here
When this process is finally rubber-stamped, the average commercial watcher will not only be shilled to in between the shows, the shows themselves will be, essentially, adverts, in which appearing brands will make appearances every bit as carefully stage-managed as those of the actors. And possibly more prominently lit . Which means, if viewers are watching Sky, they've already paid money to watch adverts between the shows, and adverts in the shows. Oh, and if they're watching on 4oD, their viewing habits are also being collected, packaged up, and sold to data companies. But I digress.
The announcement contains what initially appears to be a little bit of good news:
"Our legislation will specifically prohibit the placement of products and services in the following categories: alcoholic drinks; foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar; gambling; smoking accessories; over-the-counter medicines; and infant formula and follow-on formula."
Which is laudable, and great, and so on, but now leaves me wondering if carrying on with PP now makes any sense at all. Assuming that PP can contribute up to 3% of programming budgets (the commonly accepted ratio in the US), cutting junk food and alcohol out of the equation is probably going to reduce that by at least a half, perhaps even two thirds.
So the trust between program-maker and viewer has now been broken for less money than traditionally ends up going on the catering. Is that suddenly going to improve British televisions' "competitiveness... against the rest of the EU"? No of course not. In my laughably naive way, I assumed the best way to make British television competitive against the rest of the world, let alone the EU, was by making it better, but instead we appear to be throwing away something that made us special, and and trying to be more like everyone else instead.
And now this line has been crossed, look out for production companies going back to the government in a few years or so and complaining about 'unfair limitations'/''restrictions of choice' and so on, until they have their way and either the restrictions are lifted, or certain products suddenly start to be re-categorised as not-quite-as-unhealthy-as-previously-assumed.
Either way, none of Ben Bradshaw's statement answers the following questions, which I've raised before, but may as well bang into the ground again:
1. Where is this extra money going to come from, bearing in mind television's current biggest problem is advertisers moving away from television?
2. What are the guarantees that production companies won't simply nab any PP money that does come their way long before it gets to program budgets and shovel it over to their shareholders instead?
And most importantly:
3. In what way does this make a better experience for the average television viewer?
Answers on a postcard, because I don't have any.