An interview with Patsy Kensit on the ITV Alan Titchmarsh chat show was turned into a gratuitous plug for Weight Watchers, the broadcasting watchdog has ruled.
Ofcom said The Alan Titchmarsh Show was in breach of the broadcasting code by encouraging promotional references and an endorsement of Weight Watchers in the interview with the actress.
The watchdog has ordered ITV to take action after reporting other cases in which its daytime programmes had been used to plug commercial products and services. Ofcom has summoned ITV bosses to a meeting discuss its failure to comply with the rules.
Previously, Amanda Holden plugged a group of law firms on ITV’s This Morning and Dannii Minogue had given prominent references to A2 milk on the Lorraine show. In both cases the celebrity guests had endorsement deals with the firms mentioned.
On the Alan Titchmarsh show, broadcast in February, the host introduced the actress Kensit and immediately steered the conversation on to her weight loss. He said: “It’s winning the battle of the bulge that’s occupying her time these days…there’s nothing of you, hello!”
Titchmarsh said: “You are but a shadow of your former self. Give us the sort of weight history then.”
The Emmerdale actress spoke at length about how joining Weight Watchers had helped her lose three stone. Titchmarsh made interjections suggesting that Weight Watchers had been the one diet “that worked” and that the actress was “thin as a rake.”
Kensit is a Weight Watchers “Weight Loss Ambassador” but this commercial association was not made clear to viewers in the interview.
The actress instead suggested that she discovered Weight Watchers spontaneously after hearing that Yorkshire TV staff were attending.
When the five minute interview moved on from her diet, Kensit steered the subject back to Weight Watchers. She said: “So for the last two and a half years I’ve just been hands-on full time mum, soccer matches and baking for the school sometimes, but not having the cakes ’cause they’re about seven ProPoints.”
ProPoints is a Weight Watchers counting system whereby each food has a numeric value and each dieter has a daily ProPoints total to utilise.
Following up a viewer complaint, Ofcom found that “from the outset of the interview, Alan Titchmarsh initiated the discussion about his guest’s weight and the majority of the interview focused on the guest’s weight history and new method of weight management.”
The watchdog ruled: “The information conveyed and overall effect was to promote and endorse Weight Watchers as an effective method of weight loss. The manner and language was promotional and Ofcom considered that the information included in the discussion went beyond what would be justified for editorial reasons, even taking into account Patsy Kensit’s own weight issues or the pressure on celebrities to lose weight.”
Ofcom concluded that “the references to Weight Watchers were promotional and unduly prominent, in breach of the Code.”
In light of the previous breaches of the code, Ofcom said it was “requesting that ITV attends a meeting at Ofcom to discuss its compliance in this area.”
ITV argued that the references to Weight Watchers in the Kensit interview were “brief” and not unduly prominent.
The broadcaster said that its compliance team had told producers before the programme that the guest should not be allowed to make promotional references to Weight Watchers.