21 May 2019
Communications Authority chief Winnie Tam and  Benjamin Tang of the CA Broadcast Codes of Practice Committee explain the new rules on indirect TV advertising. Photo: HKEJ
Communications Authority chief Winnie Tam and Benjamin Tang of the CA Broadcast Codes of Practice Committee explain the new rules on indirect TV advertising. Photo: HKEJ

Govt eases restrictions on indirect TV advertising

The Communications Authority (CA) has announced new rules easing restrictions on indirect advertising on television shows.

The move came following consultations with industry practitioners and the public. TV operators have urged the government to relax the rules on indirect TV advertising to help them increase their ad revenue, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In its announcement, the CA said indirect advertising, in the aspects of product placements and unpaid commercial references, will be permitted on TV programs aired by licensed operators except for news, current affairs, children, educational, religious and other devotional programs, regardless of whether they are produced in Hong Kong or not.

Product placements will be allowed if the exposure or use of a product or service during a program is presented in a natural and unobtrusive manner, and if there is no direct encouragement for its purchase or use.

Licensed TV operators must declare that there will be product placement during a program before it begins, such as by saying “the following program contains indirect advertising” before the start, The Standard reported.

The same notice must be given to viewers if indirect advertising is included in acquired programs and direct re-transmission channels.

The revised Codes of Practice will be gazetted on July 6 and will take effect on July 27, the CA said.

The relaxed rules will help broadcasters to diversify their advertising sources, and strike a balance between providing a more conducive business environment to licensees amid the keen competition in the industry and safeguarding the viewers’ interests.

CA chief Winnie Tam Wan-chi, who is also a barrister, said the authority will not take the initiative to examine all TV programs but will do so on specific shows if it receives a complaint from the public.

It will be hard to objectively decide if an ad is presented in a natural way and such a decision will be left to viewers to make, Tam said.

Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun, who chairs the authority’s Broadcast Codes of Practice Committee, said the committee in charge of complaints will make suggestions on whether programs will be penalized for breaking rules.

Producers of the shows being complained about will be given the chance to defend themselves, Tang said.

He said about two-thirds of the complaints received by the committee over the past eight years could end up being dismissed under the revised rules.

Lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-kwong, who represents the information technology sector, said he is pleased that the new rules have set no limits on how long an embedded ad should last or details about the embedded ad itself,thus giving society and the industry some room to adjust.

Television Broadcasts Limited, which the CA fined HK$150,000 in 2016 for showing the brand logo of a fried chicken chain during a live awards show, said in a statement the authority’s move is not going to help as the new rule that products must be presented in a “natural and unobtrusive” manner is a matter of perception and difficult to define, RTHK reported.

ViuTV, the young free-to-air television station of telecommunications group PCCW (00008.HK), said it welcomed the general direction of the relaxation, adding that it hopes the CA can lift the restrictions more concretely in the future to facilitate the growth of free TV program service.

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