Anger at 'Pop Idol' deal with Nestlé

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The Independent Culture

A sponsorship deal worth £6m struck by the television talent show Pop Idol and the food multinational Nestlé provoked fury from campaigners yesterday.

A sponsorship deal worth £6m struck by the television talent show Pop Idol and the food multinational Nestlé provoked fury from campaigners yesterday.

Nestlé, which will sponsor the third series of ITV1's programme later this year, has been accused of breaching an international code drawn up by the World Health Organisation on the promotion of baby milk in developing countries more than 20 years ago.

Critics claim powdered milk has contributed to the deaths of thousands of children in the developing world by discouraging mothers to breastfeed, increasing the risk of contamination from dirty water in bottled milk. Nestlé insists it does abide by the agreement.

The deal was signed by Nestlé Rowntree, the multinational's confectionery arm; Granada; and 19 Entertainment, a firm owned by the music impresario Simon Fuller, which has the rights to Pop Idol. The deal is the largest of its kind for a single series on British TV.

Earlier this month, Western companies, including Nestlé, were heavily criticised in a survey conducted in West Africa and published in the British Medical Journal.

Campaigners at Baby Milk Action said the deal was irresponsible given that the series is aimed at a young audience. The last series averaged 13.1 million viewers. Patti Rundall, policy director of the campaign group, said: "Viewers of Pop Idol will include teenagers who do not even know about the ethical context of Nestlé. It is really a question of power in the media and accepting company sponsorship unquestioningly."

Musicians who have refused to perform in productions sponsored by Nestlé include Ian Brown, Pulp and Dodgy. Last year, the authors Germaine Greer and Jim Crace refused to attend a literary festival linked to Nestlé.

Simon Emmerson, a band member of Afro Celts, which includes musicians from West Africa, said: "This is the worst kind of PR. I think if Pop Idol had done a bit of research and knew where the money was coming from, they would turn it down."

Nestlé's marketing director, Andrew Harrison, said he was delighted at the deal with "the UK's hottest TV phenomenon". A spokeswoman at Nestlé UK said: "Nestlé firmly believe that breast-feeding is the best way to feed a baby."

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