ITV threatens legal action over 'defamatory' Channel 4 Dispatches sting on Coronation Street stars


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The Independent Culture

You might expect it of Rosie Webster, but not of her more sensible sister Sophie. The actress who plays one of Coronation Street’s most morally astute young characters is among a number of the soap’s stars who appear to have been caught in a sting by a Channel 4 Dispatches programme.

Brooke Vincent is among three ITV soap actresses reported to have used Twitter to promote “healing bracelets” and “anti-ageing” skin toner from a bogus brand called Puttana Aziendale, Italian for “corporate whore”, which was actually a front for Channel 4 investigators. A spokesman for the soap said the allegations were false, and denied the actresses had done anything wrong.

Vincent, Krissi Bohn - who plays Sophie’s partner Jenna in the soap - and Cherylee Houston (Izzy Armstrong) were among a host of celebrities apparently invited to a “gifting” event at a hotel in Manchester in February where they were provided with freebies and encouraged to promote products to their many Twitter followers.

The Puttana Aziendale “zionate bracelet”, allegedly made by Buddhist monks, turned out to be costume jewellery, while the “Mistique spray”, supposedly derived from a mountain well in Bali, was actually just tap water.

The actresses risked breaching Advertising Standards Authority guidelines which state that sponsored messages on social networking sites should be clearly marked as such.

However, a Coronation Street spokesperson said: “The programme has made allegations that are false and highly defamatory and we have written to the producer threatening legal action if they decide to broadcast.”

A Channel 4 spokesman said: “We do not comment on upcoming Dispatches programmes.” He declined to confirm when it was intended to be broadcast although reports suggest it will be aired later this month.

Much of the programme was filmed earlier this year but ITV only found out about the allegations quite recently. An unnamed source told The Sun: “Corrie stars get invited to these gifting events all the time. But at this one they were fed a load of rubbish about the mystical powers of completely fake products and it looks like they fell for it hook line and sinker.”

“This is very embarrassing for all the stars involved.”

ITV said later: "Cast members responded to tweets sent directly to them by some brands to say thank you. Contrary to the allegations which have been made, they didn't receive free gifts in return for tweeting or indulge in any kind of unlawful marketing promotion."

Soon after the “gifting event”, which is a genuine occasion also featuring real products, BrookeLVincent tweeted: “Thank you @aziendale for my lovely healing anklet!! : ) xx”

Her co-star Houston, tweeted: “Well I’ve slept in my bracelet and I’ve sprayed my face several times. Thank you so much I love them!”

Bohn wrote: “Love my bracelet!! Thanks guys — My cold hands will become a thing of the past!!”

Fellow Coronation Street actresses Georgia May Foote (Katy Armstrong) and Catherine Tyldesley (Eva Price) were also pictured in front of branding for Puttana Aziendale, as was former Hollyoaks actress Sinead Moynihan, who tweeted: “Absolutely love my @Aziendale bracelet and Mustique Spray!!! Can’t wait to check out your other bracelets! xxx.

Channel 4 Dispatches is a documentary series dating from 1987 which often uses undercover reporters.