Unions Want 'Plug' Code of Conduct

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Union leaders on Monday proposed a TV code of product placement conduct.

Speaking at a Monday press conference on a day the Writers Guild of America, West, the WGA, East and the Screen Actors Guild jointly put out a white paper on product integration, WGAW president Patric Verrone outlined a proposed “Code of Conduct.”

While they would like to stop the onrush of product integration in television shows and feature films, a more realistic solution would be full disclosure at the beginning of a show listing the companies advertising.

The guilds also threatened to go to the FCC if negotiations could not be opened on the subject, but said that was a “last resort.” They would likely have a willing ear in Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who has made stumping for product placement disclosure one of the priorities of his second term at the commission.

The “Code of Conduct” comprises four points: the visual and aural disclosure of product integration deals at the beginning of each program, limiting integration within children’s programming, including writers in decision-making regarding integration, and extending product integration regulation to cable TV.

While Verrone said the organization is not happy that writers are being put in a position to have to write “advertising copy” within entertainment programming, he claimed securing compensation for writers is not his end game.

“That is not our primary concern,” he said.  “We have the issue of artistic integrity.  If we make money on it that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t solve the bigger problem. We have to draw the line somewhere.” 

However, Verrone was realistic about attempting to stem the onrush of integration.

“The ideal would be to stop it, but if not, contain it,” he said.  “But realistically I don’t think we need to stop the practice, especially if it is the means by which TV is produced.  We have to see how we can decide on a code of conduct that can be beneficial for both sides.”

While Verrone also said if talks were not opened on the matter his next course of action would involve going to the FCC, he made it clear that was not a desired outcome.

“Yes, the next step would be to go to the FCC,” he said. “Unless something else presents itself we haven’t thought of, that would be the logical next step. But frankly, that would be almost a last resort and a place we would prefer not to go to.”

Verrone said he has yet to have any “official discussions with” the other side, including the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.  The two sides continue to battle over the WGA’s desire to have jurisdiction over the reality genre.

“We bargain on a regular basis with our regular employers,” he says.  “They knew what we were interested in, and no one chose to engage in a dialogue.  But we didn’t put forth anything official. We just want them to sit down with us and talk.”

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