Broadcast regulator relaxes product placement ban following fried chicken furore

Three years after an uproar over the eating of KFC on TV, product placements in Hong Kong television shows will no longer be considered fowl play.

Hong Kong’s broadcasting watchdog has decided to lift a ban on indirect advertising in television programs, paving the way for more product placements.

A statement published on the Communications Authority’s (CA) website today says they decision was made following a review of its Codes of Practice on indirect advertising, and a one-month public consultation exercise.

A spokesperson for the regulator said: “The relaxation facilitates broadcasting licensees to diversify their source of advertising, striking a balance between providing a more conducive business environment to licensees in light of the keen competition in the broadcasting industry and protection of the interests of viewers.”

This relaxed ban applies to all TV programs apart from news, current affairs, educational, and religious shows.

Product placement, it says, will be allowed as long as the exposure of the products or services are presented in a “natural and unobstructive” manner.

Advertisements on death or burial services will also be permitted.

The changes to the CA’s Codes of Practice will take effect on July 27.

The announcement comes after the the city’s biggest broadcaster TVB challenged a HK$150,000 (US$19,000) fine it received in 2015 for serving KFC live on air during an awards show.

In a judicial review challenging the fine heard at the High Court in May, TVB’s senior counsel Gerald McCoy called for more well-defined rules over how to regulate indirect advertising, and that the CA’s decision interfered with the autonomy of the station’s scriptwriters, violated freedom of expression, and restricted the audience’s access to entertainment.

The case is yet to be concluded.

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