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Amongst several topics covered in a wide-ranging speech delivered to the Convergence Think Tank last night, media and culture minister Andy…

Amongst several topics covered in a wide-ranging speech delivered to the Convergence Think Tank last night, media and culture minister Andy Burnham spoke against adopting part of Europe’s new Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) directive that would legitimise TV product placement. If that also goes for TV-like online programming, it would destroy the business model for shows like Bebo’s KateModern, Sofia’s Diary, Gap Year and Secret Life Of Sam King, all funded by embedded endorsements.

But a government spokesperson I spoke to was unable to answer whether Burnham feels the same way about online, which may well evade the same treatment. She did say the AVMS will not be opposed entirely, however, and a consultation is open on the issue. The AVMS made the first distinction between linear and non-linear media but curiously left internet video largely untouched. Also in Burnham’s speech…

Internet regulation: Burnham suggested John Perry Barlow’s infamous 1996 Declaration Of The Independence Of Cyberspace, which advocated a lawless internet, was out-moded, with regulation indeed necessary: “That was then. Twelve years on the internet is mainstream. The penetration of the internet to all of our lives means that I think that people don

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  1. Our analysis at Futurescape is that Burnham has just given online shows a significant boost. There’s nothing in what he has said to indicate that he positively means to extend the product placement ban to Internet programmes. Yet he does intend to keep products out of broadcast television.

    The benefit therefore is all on the side of the Internet shows, that can still pick up major brand sponsorship that is unavailable to broadcast programmes.

    As you point out, Web series are already established with a business model that relies on product integration. Burhham would need a particularly good reason to, in effect, threaten to kill them off.

    He is blocking product placement in broadcast television on the grounds that it would further undermine our trust in the broadcasters, in the wake of the premium phone call scandals.

    This concern presumably does not apply to online television, since it has not suffered from these scandals, and there is much less of an issue about who trusts a programme from MySpace versus one from ITV.

    He might see an issue about children being exposed to some forms of inappropriate advertising via Web shows, though with the Royal Air Force as a sponsor for Bebo’s The Gap Year, even that cuts both ways.

    If Burnham is going to regulate online content, there will be much bigger targets and more pressing issues than product placement.

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