Policy 1.1.10: Commercial Impact

Effective: September 24, 2002

Strong commercial preoccupations condition the society in which the CBC/Radio-Canada exercises its mandate and its programs quite naturally reflect this aspect of Canada's national life. While the CBC/Radio-Canada has always engaged in commercial activities, these have been and must remain dependent upon the broadcasting and programming functions of the national public service.


Program content is determined within the framework of established corporation policy. However, program staff members dealing with outside production organizations must also be aware of the Commercial Impact Policy and apply it.

The Advertising Standards Department will be consulted on serious Commercial Impact issues and will raise questions about the application of the policy.

The final responsibility for the application of this policy rests with the Media Vice-President(s) concerned.


1. Consumer Programming

There are many aspects of commerce which are properly reflected in CBC/Radio-Canada programs, including consumer programs. What must be avoided are programs or program material which give free publicity to commercial enterprises by subordinating legitimate program material to the interests of commerce. This policy is not intended to prohibit the legitimate reference to prices, products, commercial enterprises, etc. in consumer programming which provides appraisal, analysis and comparisons regarding the information.

It is the responsibility of Producer and Journalists to ensure that references to prices, products, commercial enterprises, business activity, etc. conform to program objectives, to CBC/Radio-Canada Program Policy and to CBC/Radio-Canada Journalistic Standards and Practices.

2. Sponsor Identification in Program Title

At the discretion of senior program management, the name of an advertiser or product can be incorporated into the title of a program when a substantial portion of the program cost is paid by the advertiser or where the advertiser controls program rights.

3. Entertainment Features and Profiles

Television Arts and Entertainment and Radio Performance Programs present Entertainment Features and Profiles which bring performances and events from other venues to audiences who might otherwise be unable to experience and enjoy them.

These programs can be produced in-house by the CBC/Radio-Canada or as a co-production with other participants and they can be acquired from another producer.

The participation or support of another party in the production and presentation of such Entertainment Features and Profiles must be clearly indicated in the program credits.

The primary purpose of such programming must be to present events, productions and performances to the home audience which may not normally be accessible to them. Care must be taken to ensure that indirect advertising which inevitably accompanies such exposure and coverage is subordinate to the entertainment value of presentation.

4. Free Program Material

Radio and television programs and program material are produced by manufacturers, cooperatives, associations, or other groups for the purpose of promoting their public relations, their products or their services. These are offered free of charge to stations in the hope that they will be scheduled on a sustaining basis. Occasionally they merit consideration on program grounds.

Such programs should be auditioned or screened before broadcast by the program supervisor to ensure that in the context in which the footage is finally broadcast there are no violations of the Commercial Impact policy.

On the other hand, when the Corporation solicits and receives free film footage for use on television from companies or individuals, factual visual credit may precede or follow the showing of the film.

5. Credits and Free Publicity

Advertising is a fact of contemporary life. It may sometimes manifest itself in an indirect manner that does not always work to the best interests of the CBC/Radio-Canada.

a) Credits – Properties, Costumes or Special Services Used in a Program or Provided in Connection with its Production

When a program is made possible through the cooperation of a commercial firm or is assisted by a substantial negotiated financial contribution from an outside source, a formal credit to that organization for its assistance can be included in the program. Only Corporate names and established logos, trademarks and advertising slogans may be used.

Credits can be given to commercial firms in exchange for supplying merchandise or services. In television any credits are to be composed of video and factual statements.

Such offers must conform to the standards and practices of Marketing and Sales. Such credits may be given only in conjunction with the specific broadcast in which the item is used. (See also Program Policy 1.1.15 – Production Credits.)

b) Program Content – Personalities

When personalities from the arts and entertainment world take part in CBC/Radio-Canada programs it is permissible to mention relevant information about the arts and entertainment offerings under discussion However, such mentions must be factual and may not be so worded as to constitute unreasonable promotion.

Similarly, personalities from the world of business, commerce and the professions who take part in CBC/Radio-Canada programs may be introduced in a way that highlights their expertise, achievements or commercial affiliations, provided that such presentation does not constitute a direct sales promotion for their products or services.

Producers should explain the provision of the CBC/Radio-Canada's Program Policies and Journalistic Standards and Practices to such persons. Although recognizing the increasing presence of indirect advertising and permitting its exposure on the screen, the Corporation stresses the need for good taste and quality programming, and requires that every realistic effort be made to minimize the impact of such publicity.

c) Program Content – Settings Having Commercial Implications

Programs or program material produced outside or in created settings must not, as a rule, be used as a carrier of indirect commercial advertising. Where this is impossible it is the responsibility of the producer and/or director to play down as much as possible such extraneous commercial exposures.

Perimeter or on-site advertising is arranged by an advertiser with the organizer of, or participants in, an event and positioned so that it will be seen during television coverage of the event.

More and more, the feasibility of outside productions depends on sponsorship. Perimeter or on-site advertising is now taken for granted, especially in sports programs and festivals. Most of the national and international events aired on the CBC/Radio-Canada, the national public broadcaster, carry on-site advertising.

The CBC/Radio-Canada recognizes this fact and is prepared, therefore, to accept on-site advertising provided that its manifestation stays within the bounds of good taste and does not affect the quality of the broadcast. Producers should ensure that any exposure of advertising signs or other types of commercial identification in program content is consistent with program and presentation requirements and that any exposure of such material is not unduly emphasized.

In some controlled situations, the CBC/Radio-Canada may allow commercial identifications to appear in program content in exchange for remuneration. These situations are described in section 6, Product Placement.

d) Merchandise Contributions in Exchange for Free Plugs

Merchandise provided without cost by manufacturers and distributors to be given to CBC/Radio-Canada television audiences can be identified during the announcement of a contest or offer within the associated program but not at other times outside the program. Such offers must conform to the standards and practices of Marketing and Sales.

e) Promotion Contests

The above guidelines apply to all contests held in conjunction with a CBC/Radio-Canada program. See also Program Policy 1.1.17, Contests, Quiz Programs and Lotteries.

6. Product Placement

In this section, "product placement" refers to any transaction by which CBC/Radio-Canada allows the exposure within programs, in picture or sound, of products, services, brands, logos or other commercial identifications, including "virtual" representations, in return for payment or other consideration. As they involve such exposure within program content, sales of this nature are distinct from sales of commercial time and must be coordinated with appropriate program management.

a) Categories of Programs

Product placement is not accepted in information and children's programs, in programs in which the CBC/Radio-Canada does not schedule advertising, and their Internet counterparts. For purposes of this policy, the definition of information programming is the same as in CBC/Radio-Canada's Journalistic Standards and Practices; children's programming is as defined by the CRTC.

Placement in other programs is acceptable only with prior authorization from appropriate program management. Placements may be sold as part of a program sponsorship package. In all cases, appropriate disclosures must be made [see paragraph d), below].

b) Program Integrity / Endorsements

Program content must never be, or appear to be, influenced by product placement. Any arrangement that would involve delegating editorial responsibility to outside interests is unacceptable.

A placement must not create the appearance that CBC/Radio-Canada or persons publicly associated with the CBC/Radio-Canada endorse or recommend a product or service. Requirements of all relevant collective and talent agreements must be satisfied.

Interpretation of this clause must be consistent with the requirements of Corporate Policy No. 3, CBC/Radio-Canada Program Content Responsibility, and Advertising Standards policies on Program Integrity - 1.3.6 and Testimonials, Endorsements or Recommendations - 1.3.5. Interpretation issues will be submitted to the CBC/Radio-Canada Office of Programming Policies, at (613) 288-6354.

c) Programming Standards

The CBC/Radio-Canada accepts product placement in some of its programs, provided that it stays within the bounds of good taste, respects CBC/Radio-Canada values such as openness, and does not affect the quality of the broadcast. Product placements are subject to the CBC/Radio-Canada's Program Policies and must follow the principles upon which the CBC Advertising Standards are based.

The following are unacceptable on CBC/Radio-Canada services:

  • placements of an advocacy, religious or political nature;
  • placement of products or services of which advertising is unacceptable on CBC/Radio-Canada facilities or from potential buyers to whom CBC/Radio-Canada would not sell commercial time (ref. Advertising Standards 1.3.11, Unacceptable Advertising);
  • placement of products or services whose advertising is regulated or prohibited, if it will allow an advertiser to purchase in program time a kind of promotion that would not be permitted in commercial time; examples of such regulated products include, but are not limited to, prescription drugs and alcoholic beverages;
  • placements that mislead audiences as to the nature, qualities or correct use of products;
  • placement of a third party's product, presented in either a positive or a negative light.

Questions of interpretation must be directed to the CBC/Radio-Canada Office of Programming Policies.

d) Virtual Imaging

Product placement using a virtual imaging process presents particular challenges in the areas of program and journalistic integrity. Such placement is acceptable in designated CBC/Radio-Canada programs [ref.: parag a), above] provided that it is not used to alter the historical record of an event with misleading effect, or to exploit the credulity or inexperience of viewers.

e) Disclosure

A program containing product placement must carry an advisory to that effect, in video or audio, identifying the advertiser (see AS policy 1.3.4, Advertiser Identification). Such advisories are distinct from special credits which may be granted in return for special assistance from a program sponsor or a supplier (ref. section 5 a). Advisory format is determined at network level and may vary between networks, but must be consistent between programs on each network.

Programs purchased from outside sources will carry the advisory only when the nature of the agreement allows the CBC/Radio-Canada to acquire sufficient knowledge of placement arrangements that may affect the program. Those responsible for purchasing programs must make reasonable efforts to obtain such information.

Co-producers and independent producers must advise the CBC/Radio-Canada in writing of the identity of any parties with whom they have entered into product placement arrangements for programming to be distributed on CBC/Radio-Canada services. The CBC/Radio-Canada retains the right to be part of, or to veto, any such arrangements.

Employees or talent under contract may not enter into negotiations with third parties for product placement on CBC/Radio-Canada without prior authorization from appropriate program management. Exposure of any commercial identifications on props or clothing used by on-air talent must be cleared with appropriate program management.


Programs commissioned from or co-produced with an outside supplier should accord with CBC/Radio-Canada Commercial Impact policy, as set out above.

Those responsible for purchasing programs from outside sources must ensure that this policy is applied consistently.

Additional reference:

Program Policy 1.1.11, Programming Not Eligible for Commercial Content

Search highlight tool