Entertainment & Arts

Countdown promotional plugs breach Ofcom rules

Nick Hewer
Image caption Hewer previously appeared on The Apprentice

Channel 4 breached regulations on product placement in an episode of its quiz show Countdown, media Ofcom watchdog has ruled.

A complaint was received about the 21 March programme after host Nick Hewer referred to the Ideal Home Show "at Olympia... until 3 April".

Later, guest Mark Foster talked about being an ambassador for P&O Cruises, referring to activities on offer.

Ofcom ruled that both references were "unduly prominent" and "promotional".

Its spokesperson said: "We found this programme broke broadcasting rules by promoting and giving undue prominence to products and services.

"Commercial references by the host Nick Hewer, and guest Mark Foster, were promotional and went beyond what could be justified editorially."

Opening the programme, Hewer told the audience the Ideal Home Show would "inspire us on how to improve our homes and make them even more beautiful... there are talks and tips and what-have-you from such experts as Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen and TV architect George Clarke.

"If you are going, good luck, get some great ideas, and good luck with the home improvements."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mark Foster was an Olympic bearer in Beijing in 2008

Later, former British swimmer Mark Foster made numerous comments about the array of different activities and services that are available on board the cruise ships including "lots of different entertainment on board: dance troupes, coffee shops, restaurants - there's probably about 20 to 30 restaurants on board. A five-a-side football pitch, a basketball court…".

Channel 4 confirmed that there was no commercial relationship between it, the programme-makers, or any person connected with either The Ideal Home Show or P&O Cruises.

EastEnders complaints

The channel continued that while the programme's producers "believed that the references were editorially justified in context", it accepted, with the benefit of hindsight, that the language used and the manner in which the information was scripted meant "that it could be construed as promotional in tone and it strayed into being unduly prominent".

Channel 4 stated that as soon as it was made aware of the complaint it removed this particular episode from its on demand service All 4, and ensured it was not repeated.

It explained that this episode was reviewed before transmission by a junior member of the commissioning team; however neither of the two references were picked up and referred on to the commissioning editor to review as "should be the process".

In light of this complaint, Channel 4 stated that all commercial references will be signed off by the commissioning editor.

Ofcom considered that the commercial references in the programme went beyond what could be justified editorially: the discussion about The Ideal Home Show appeared at the very start of the programme and was not prompted by, or linked to, the programme's editorial narrative; and, the references to P&O Cruises went beyond a discussion about the guest's role as a health and fitness advisor.

Meanwhile, the recent episode of EastEnders which featured Dame Barbara Windsor apparently taking an overdose of pills, received seven complaints regarding self-harm and suicide but the BBC programme was not held in breach.

There were also 19 complaints about nudity in an episode of Britain's Got Talent that aired on 23 May, but again, Ofcom did not uphold the complaints.

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