I always had the impression that the BBC, at least up to some point in time, was not allowed to promote commercial products in any way. However when viewing the BBC website, I quite often notice articles which do precisely this, for example, today:

"PlayStation 5: Sony reveals first details of next-gen console" https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-47953213

This would seem to constitute very valuable free advertising for Sony.

Did the rules change at some point in time? Does the BBC website have different rules to broadcast programs?

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    It's not a promotion, it's a news story. – RWW Apr 17 '19 at 18:37
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    Yeah, but this does seem like a case where there's a very fine line between news and advertising. I might rephrase the question more generally, perhaps asking "How does the BBC draw the line between reporting on and promoting commercial products?" – divibisan Apr 17 '19 at 18:49
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    Perhaps. I could see the value in that. As a gamer, I see the article as the same as one about a sports team preparing for it's upcoming season, but I can see where answers could provide a prespective on how the BBC might evaluate the difference between reporting on upcoming features and gushing over it. – RWW Apr 17 '19 at 19:07
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    As interesting a question as this is, I'm not sure it's really about politics (at least as far as it's defined in the help center). – Joe C Apr 17 '19 at 19:47
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    Since BBC is a public service broadcaster funded by virtually all British households, law voted by British Parliament and fee set up by the British Government, its editorial decisions can be connected to politics. – Alexei Apr 18 '19 at 4:38

If it's not done in exchange for money or similar benefits from Sony (for instance), it's not considered product placement according the BBC's own guidelines.

Their general editorial principles state that

We must not endorse or appear to endorse any other organisation, its products, activities, services, views or opinions.

We must not give undue prominence to commercial products or services.

There must be no product placement in programmes.

Product placement is defined as

the inclusion of, or a reference to, a product or service in return for payment or any consideration in kind.

They have more specific and lengthy guidelines for "undue prominence". But they start with the obvious observation that

We need to be able to reflect the real world and this will involve referring to commercial products, organisations and services in our output.

Also further down

We must ensure there is no element of plugging when we review products or services. We should review a range from different suppliers. [...]

if we are reviewing products of any significant value, such as a washing machine or a car, we must return the product to the manufacturer or supplier.

As far as having separate news articles for commercial products it doesn't seem unusual for the BBC 'Newsbeat' to do with the major brands; e.g. a quick search found a recent for Xbox One and an older one for Nintendo.

Ofcom says that complaints about BBC's content should be directed to the latter first. And the BBC page they point to does list some complaints although it seems they are mostly about their coverage of politics.

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    Basically, as long as they do articles about every new games console (which they do), they're not promoting one over the others. Or they always have the famous get-out clause of: "Other games consoles are available." – F1Krazy Apr 17 '19 at 21:29
  • Yes. This is not product placement, it's less subtle than that. I guess it's a question of whether this can or should be considered news. I just learned that Newsbeat has a remit "to provide news tailored for a specifically younger audience", which certainly does not include myself. I suppose as long as there is no corruption, it's just about ok, but for me it jars. – George Barwood Apr 17 '19 at 21:45
  • @GeorgeBarwood: I suppose you can complain that they cover the gaming industry too much. I suspect they'll reply that it's an XX billion dollars/pounds industry... – Fizz Apr 17 '19 at 21:47
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    @GeorgeBarwood I also suppose that for some one else coverage of the next production of the RSC at the Barbican theatre, or the Opera Peter Grimes on the beach at Adeburgh or the opening of the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium at White Hart Lane is not newsworthy and covering them jars. The news has to cover a wide range of subjects even if not all of them appeal to everyone. – Sarriesfan Apr 17 '19 at 23:21

Per https://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidelines/bbc-editorial-values/charter-and-agreement

The BBC's Editorial Values, and the Editorial Guidelines, are rooted in the Royal Charter and the Agreement.

The Royal Charter guarantees the editorial independence of the BBC and sets out its Public Purposes. These are defined as:

o sustaining citizenship and civil society

o promoting education and learning

o stimulating creativity and cultural excellence

o representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities

o bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK

o in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.

I don't see how reporting a new version of a games console fits into that mission, albeit that may well depend on your attitude towards these devices. Are they a form of "cultural excellence" or "education and learning", or are they the opposite? That's an editorial decision, and my gut feeling is this editorial decision is dubious.

While the charter and rules may not have changed, I think their interpretation by BBC staff has changed, and this promotion of a commercial product by the BBC would not have occurred twenty years ago.

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    It's a matter of opinion for some games and game consoles are creative and show cultural excellence for them the BBC has a duty to cover news about such things. They may well feel that some things that you enjoy news about are not worthy of mentioning. But the BBC has to be a broad church and provide a service for everyone that pays the licence fee. – Sarriesfan Apr 18 '19 at 9:46
  • As for not covering such things 29 years ago, do you remember the TV Tomorrow's World? If often contained content such as segments on the launch of the mobile phone, CDs the Sinclair C-5 and Zike m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig-d8ZnzZvc etc. Not very different to that news story. – Sarriesfan Apr 19 '19 at 8:48
  • @Sarriesfan I do remember Tomorrow's world. I agree that in a few cases specific manufacturers and products were mentioned if there was a ground-breaking technology to be covered. But the 5th version of a games console? – George Barwood Apr 19 '19 at 9:47
  • Would you feel the same if the BBC were reporting on the 5th production of a particular opera company, or an authors 5th novel a sports teams 5 attempt to win a major trophy etc? Again just because you don't feel games consoles are worth of news coverage while many younger people do. – Sarriesfan Apr 19 '19 at 10:17
  • @Sarriesfan I don't think the BBC would report on the 5th production of an opera company, although that might be easier to defend under it's charter ( "cultural excellence" ). It's not a question of what I or others prefer, but whether the BBC is following it's charter. Generally speaking the BBC is very careful not to advertise commercial products ( although media bought in can now have product placement ). – George Barwood Apr 19 '19 at 10:24

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