26 May 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
TV Programme Sponsorship
11 Mar 2003 :
In this Article I will set out some of the issues involved in the sponsorship of television programmes from a legal perspective, discuss RTE’s guidelines (the “Guidelines”) in this regard and hopefully provide some assistance to independent production companies seeking to augment budgets in this way.

It is important for a production company to be aware of the Guidelines when dealing with potential sponsors to ensure that promises are not made which the production company cannot deliver on. A production company need also be aware of the restrictions that RTE will place on such sponsorship deals, taking heed of the Guidelines and also in light of the RTE/FMI terms of trade which can restrict the manner in which a relationship might develop between a sponsor and a production company and also governs the value and manner in which such value can be derived by a production company using sponsorship arrangements.

The Guidelines

The core principals of sponsorship opportunities are that the sponsor must be clearly identified and that the sponsor will have no editorial input or involvement in programming or scheduling.

The Guidelines lay down the opportunities, regulations and restrictions put in place by the broadcaster to govern sponsorship deals. The Guidelines themselves are drafted with advertisers in mind but cover all programming made or commissioned by RTE and acquired from whatever source.

The definition of sponsorship in the Guidelines makes the distinction between sponsorship and advertising and provides that sponsorship credits stand apart from commercial breaks and do not eat into available advertising minutes. It in interesting to note however that RTE defines sponsorship as a relationship entered into between a broadcaster and an organisation with the objective of promoting products, goods, interests or services and does not refer to relationships entered into between production companies and such organisations.

Specific Guidelines

A sponsors credit may appear at the beginning and end of a programme and at the beginning and end of any commercial breaks. Such credits may not exceed 10 seconds and 7 seconds in length respectively and may be both visual and verbal. The name of the sponsor may not be included in the programme nor may any messages appear within a TV programme. In addition all credits and advertising messages must comply with the relevant Advertising Codes and Standards in place from time to time.

Certain programming such as news programmes, current affairs, religious programmes, continuity messages and children’s programmes are deemed not suitable for sponsorship in addition RTE may deem any other programme unsuitable.

Certain other programmes may be suitable and will be examined on a case-by-case basis. Programmes on or regarding magazines, consumers, lifestyle, DIY, business or health are potentially suitable for sponsorship but in certain circumstances would be deemed unsuitable, for example where a programme is offering advice on the purchase of products or services, the programme may not be sponsored by businesses which involve the marketing or sale of the products or services featured.

In certain circumstances RTE will deem a certain sponsor itself unsuitable and will direct that certain products or services may not be advertised with certain programmes or at certain times or where the product or services are not acceptable to the prevailing advertising code. A topical example of this would be tobacco products.

Product placement is not permitted as it implies editorial involvement. Prizes may be provided to programmes but no prizes will be offered which appear in an editorial context anywhere else in the programme. It is also important to note that certain events will of there nature, have sponsor involvement and it is permissible in these circumstances to have a sponsor of the coverage separate to the event sponsor, although it is not permitted to show a preference for particular signage or branding messages. Furthermore RTE will not provide coverage at events which do not have a bona fide status other than sponsor coverage.

In Short

In addition to the Guidelines and the Codes and Standard, broadcasters, production companies and potential sponsors must also be aware of the importance of the preparation and negotiation of sound contracts setting out each parties’ rights and obligations, as this can prevent many of the problems and arguments that may arise later.

The RTE sponsorship guidelines are helpful in that they reduce the risk of leading potential sponsors up the “garden path” as to what a production company can provide for them. The guidelines do promote a certain amount of flexibility in the type and manner of sponsorship options available, however, this must be viewed in the context of the RTE/FMI terms of trade and I would suggest that prior to going down the route of attempting to attract sponsors to a particular production the options available and the commercial benefits should be discussed with RTE or the broadcaster in question at an early stage.

Colin Kavanagh
Media & Entertainment Law Group
Arthur Cox
Earlsfort Terrace
Earlsfort Centre
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 618 0000
Fax: 01 618 0738
e mail: ckavanagh@arthurcox.ie

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