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Media standards groups which are opposed to product placement on British television programmes will get the chance to offer advice on possible safeguards.Sion Simon, a junior minister at the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, told a delegation from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (6.10.2009) that the government was anxious to help the industry. Ministers supported product placement because they believed it would give “immediate cash benefits” to struggling television companies. Although final decisions have not been made and consultations are still taking place, Simon said there would need to be some “convincing arguments” to change the mind of the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, who did not think concerns about product placement were the kind of “big deal” which the opponents were making out.“There would be immediate cash benefits for the television companies which we are trying to help.  Pumping extra money into the sector would help everyone whereas the disadvantages seem rather abstract”.Product placement would not be allowed on children’s programmes and would exclude alcohol, gambling and certain other products.  This was the “direction of travel” and if media standards campaigners thought they could help advise on further safeguards their input would be welcomed.Simon also indicated that the government has no intention of imposing restraints or regulations on the development of newspaper websites. Currently the online television and radio output of the press does not have to follow the guidelines on invasion of privacy and political impartiality which apply to mainstream broadcasters.When asked if there were any “red lines” within DCMS defining limits on the degree to which newspapers would have the freedom to innovate online, Simon said “No”.  It was not inconceivable that at some point in the future there might have to be government intervention to impose standards on the online output of the press, but there were such no concerns at present. “We are not saying we would never regulate…but the government is certainly in no rush to regulate”.The audio visual output of newspaper websites is currently self-regulated under the Press Complaints Commission and outside the reach of Ofcom.The Labour MP Neil Gerrard, who arranged for the CPBF delegation to meet Sion Simon, said afterwards that despite the decision to allow product placement the government did seem aware that safeguards might be needed and ministers were anxious to allow for consultation.Nicholas Jones 7.10.2009