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Anthony Bourdain Takes the Travel Channel to Task for Non-Consensual Product Placement

Anthony Bourdain Takes the Travel Channel to Task for Non-Consensual Product Placement

Chef-turned-author-turned-TV personality Anthony Bourdain is about to start production on his new 2013 series on CNN, the title of which — “Parts Unknown” — was just announced by the news network. His long-running Travel Channel international food show “No Reservations” came to an end last week with an episode set in his hometown of New York, though he has another show, “The Layover,” set to kick off a new season on the network on November 19th.

This hasn’t stopped the never shy Bourdain from venting some serious anger at the Travel Channel for the way they cut footage from the last two episodes of “No Reservations” to make it appear that he was driving in (and tacitly endorsing as a product) a new Cadillac. In a long post on Tumblr, Bourdain explains his two brushes with product placement, and notes that he’s preferred to stay away from it because he likes to make clear that his opinions are his own and not potentially paid for, which is something he had written into his agreement with the Travel Channel. Some excerpts from his post follow:

I understood the way the world works. Television programs are paid for by television networks — who make their money selling advertising. And it would be ridiculous to hope or expect that I could ever have control over who buys commercial time in the breaks between segments. But my name and image are my own. My name, arguably, might not mean that much — and my face may not be pretty, but they’re mine.

In the brave new world we live in these days, fewer and fewer people watch their favorite television programs in their scheduled time periods. They DVR them, they record them, they download them on-line. People tend, under such circumstances, to skip — or speed through — commercials. For this reason, there’s pressure from networks to “integrate” products into the body of the actual shows whenever possible: to slip images of brands right into the action, or to transitions into commercials in such a way as to make the viewer think that it’s still the show they’re watching.

I’m aware of these pressures and have been, as a result, very very careful about resisting them. A while back, I agreed to use a credit card on a limited number of episodes of my show. The network made money off the deal. It helped assure me and my production company the budget we wanted. And I got paid. My fans were not pleased, however. Not at all. The backlash was considerable and angry. People felt betrayed. As a result, I became even more careful and even more reluctant to do them.

Fortunately, I had made sure, in my agreement with Travel Channel, to include very specific language about this kind of thing. We had both agreed to terms where my name or image was never to be used to either endorse, or imply use of a product without my specific agreement. It was clearly expressed in writing, clearly understood and agreed to that I would not use or mention any products in my show and my name and image would not be used in connection with any products in return for anything of value or any other consideration without my specific agreement.

You can find the full post here. Bourdain writes that he informed the network of his displeasure after the first airing of a problematic ad, and that it was re-aired despite this, something he sees as part of an overall “definite turn for the worse” at the network that includes the insistence on the creation of three “special episodes” cobbled together from previously shot footage.

The Travel Channel’s response to the Hollywood Reporter was short and to the point: “We’ve enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Tony and his production team, but his decision to make further remarks on this matter in the public domain is unfortunate.” “No Reservations,” which ran for nine seasons, was one of the network’s flagship shows. Bourdain suggests in his post that he will seek legal recourse for having his name and image used without his consent to sell a product.

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