Amid mounting criticism over a government practice of buying ads in print publication disguised to look like news reports, the Executive Yuan yesterday proposed a non-binding measure to address the issue.
Rather than having it listed on the agenda of yesterday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, the issue was brought up during a free discussion when Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) presented “a set of notes for advertising and promotion policy” toward the end of the meeting.
The proposal suggested that government agencies should not use the practice of “product placement,” also known as advertorials or embedded marketing, in print and electronic media. Government agencies should refrain from placing embedded marketing ads aimed at promoting agency chiefs or their policies in the form of news stories, news features, news programs or news tickers, the proposal suggested.
The proposal also suggested that government agencies be banned from attaching conditions to procuring ads that require media that win the bids to have their reporters cover the ad-placing agencies’ activities or report on events they hold.
Product placements in media by the government “should not be politically motivated,” the GIO said.
Government agencies are allowed to carry out paid advertising to promote policies either by publishing newspaper ads, placing newspaper supplements or commissioning electronic media to produce programs, but they are required to have their names shown in the proper context, the GIO said.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) approved the proposal and instructed at the meeting that it be forwarded to all government agencies at central and local levels for their reference.
According to the Legal Affairs Committee under the Executive Yuan, the directives dictated by Wu will be presented in the form of “administrative rules,” which are not legally binding.
“We wish government agencies can comply with the notes after they receive [the administrative rules],” Chiang said.
When asked by reporters how to ensure that government agencies follow or whether they would be disciplined if they fail to obey the rules, Chiang said: “Every agency chief shall be held responsible for [the proposal’s] implementation.”
“Before the rules are written into law, the [Executive Yuan] will rely on government agencies to exercise self-discipline in compliance with the rules,” he said.
Chiang said the GIO is neither a government agency nor a supervisory organ for print media because the nation annulled the Publishing Act (出版法) in 1999. The management of electronic media falls under the authority of the National Communication Commission (NCC).
The NCC will soon propose amendments to the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) and Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法) to regulate the practice of advertorial placement in electronic media, Chiang said.
As for regulations concerning embedded marketing by government in print media, Chiang said some had suggested banning government agencies from using public funds to place advertorials by amending the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法) and the Budget Act (預算法).
“[The Executive Yuan] has asked governing agencies [of the Government Procurement Act and Budget Act] to deliberate the suggestion,” Chiang said, referring to the Public Construction Commission and the Ministry of Finance, which govern the two acts, respectively.