The BBC breached its own rules prohibiting the plugging of products when it allowed Countryfile presenters to wear clearly branded outfits from a leading outdoor clothing company, the BBC Trust has found.
Viewers complained that two of the presenters on BBC1 rural magazine show were wearing the same branded clothing, visibly displaying the logo of Rab, the outdoor wear manufacturer. The complainants called this “blatant product placement & advertising which should not be allowed”.
The BBC said that the nature of Countryfile, presented by Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury, requires its hosts to wear “specialist outdoor clothing”, which in many cases is branded.
There were no commercial deals for presenters to wear Rab clothing, nor were the outfits provided free of charge or at a cut-price rate by the company.
Ms Bradbury “hires some of her clothing by agreement with the BBC specifically to ensure that no single brand or style features too frequently in any of the series in which she appears. Hired items of clothing are paid for at commercial rates.”
The producers said it was “unfortunate” that two presenters should have chosen to wear the same brand of outer-wear in the same programme, but “given that this happened in November/December, during very cold weather, it was a question of coincidence rather than collusion.”
On each occasion, “the two presenters were working in different locations and with different directors, so it wasn’t until the final editing stage that the problem became apparent.”
However the Trust found that “the wearing of the same visibly branded clothing by two of the programme’s presenters in the two editions of the programme… did amount to undue prominence which gave the impression that the programmes were promoting or endorsing these products.”
The Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee concluded that “in these programmes the cumulative effect was that the branded clothing was unduly prominent and amounted to a breach of the Guidelines covering Product Prominence.”