Oktoberfest on security alert - for TV 'sneak ads'

13th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

13 September 2005 MUNICH - Munich's famed Oktoberfest, the world's biggest beer bust, will be on high alert when it opens at a tented meadow on Saturday, with police, crime detectives and anti-terrorist specialists geared to cope with the expected six million visitors before the annual event ends on October 3.

13 September 2005
 

MUNICH - Munich's famed Oktoberfest, the world's biggest beer bust, will be on high alert when it opens at a tented meadow on Saturday, with police, crime detectives and anti-terrorist specialists geared to cope with the expected six million visitors before the annual event ends on October 3.

While those officials face daunting tasks of dealing with aggressive drunks, accidents, pickpockets, and violaters of the public order (bare female breasts are banned this year), television officials have other concerns.

With widespread coverage of the event, media watchdogs will be on the alert for TV product placement, following a scandal last month that rocked Germany's television industry.

Hardest hit were Germany's public broadcasters, the ARD and its opposite number ZDF, whose soaps and crime series resulted in the immediate dismissal of Bavaria Film's general manager and production head Thilo Kleine and arrests of two sports reporters at the ARD member channels, HR and MDR, who were accused of taking bribes in return for inserting "sneak adverts" into their programming.

Studio Hamburg managing director Martin Willich promptly fired his production head, Frank Doehmann, after news broke that he was under investigation for production placement.

In related developments Tuesday, the managing directors of the ARD's 11 member stations adapted strong measures against product placement during a two-day conference in Stuttgart.

The executives established the ARD's own 'clearing place' under the chairmanship of Dr. Hermann Eicher, the legel expert at the association's member station, SWR.

Eicher had drawn up measures and coordination plans against product placement based on previous cases.

"With the measures decided on today, ARD has drawn the right conclusions from the events at Bavaria and its subsidiaries," the organization's chairman Thomas Gruber said.

"ARD's highest aim is to secure the independence and credibility of its programming under all circumstances."

As for Oktoberfest, ARD member Bayerische Runkfunk (BR) has scheduled a special, half-hour programme daily to be broadcast from the fest's Hacker beer tent with two presenters describing live the carryings-on of the revelers and and giving interviews of VIPs and out-of-town guests.

And a brand new local broadcaster, Muenchen TV, will make its debut on the airways on Saturday with three hours of daily prime-time live coverage of the Oktoberfest.

The BR people were displaying "certain marketing fears," as Hacker tent manager Tilman Schoeberl told the daily Suedeutsche Zeitung with regard to product placement.

"Previously they didn't care if a beer stein of a brand name other than Hacker conspicuously appeared on table. But this year, they are really worried."

But BR press spokesman Rudi Kueffner stressed that the channel had nothing to worry about.

"Product placement," he explained, "means that somebody has paid money to get into the programme. We have already experienced that brand names appear in Formula One racing and football broadcasts. But anything that can't be avoided is no violation of our guidelines," he said.

According to the state media treaty setting down TV advertising regulations between the public and private broadcasters, product placement violates the required separation of advertising and programming.

But according to media observers, problems arise because the unclear border between programming and advertising often obscures whether there is actually product placement. In all production contracts, broadcaster must observe advertising regulations and avoid product placement.

While illegal product placement as had happened last month can result in punishment or dismissals to executives, private broadcasters breeching the rules face heavy fines.

Meanwhile, media commissioner Viviane Reding in Brussels is working out a thematic paper aimed at creating for the European Union a flexible and legal framework regarding product placement, which will form the basis for discussion at an audio-visual conference in Liverpool on September 20.

All media organizations are expected to submit revival positions aimed at watering down current tight E.U. restrictions on TV advertising and product placement.

DPA

Subject: German news

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