The warning, which is the Independent Television Commission's highest available sanction short of a fine, has been issued for two episodes of the entertainment show aired in June in which young children had the chance to win prizes for their families.
On 18 June, two seven-year-old boys competed to see who would be the last to blink. The winner won a new car for his parents, while the loser was seen on screen fighting back tears. The following week two young girls competed for a pounds 15,000 speedboat. This time the loser burst into tears. At the sight of the girl's tears the studio audience turned against Evans and the competition. The presenter was heard on air telling an off-screen producer "we can't do this again". In the following week's episode, adults took the place of the children.
Before the second week of the competition, Evans had admitted on air that there had been complaints about the previous week's item and said the boy had been "devastated". He then assured viewers that the boy had been well rewarded and showed film of him singing and surrounded by toys.
The ITC, which regulates all commercial television channels, issued the warning for breaching section 6.4 of its code, which states that "particular care must be taken to avoid causing any distress or alarm to children involved in programmes".
A Channel 4 spokesman said yesterday that it accepted the ITC's warning, but added: "We're surprised that the commission appears to have taken little account of the views of the families involved in the competition in making this ruling. Letters from both sets of parents received by Channel 4 after transmission prove that far from feeling harmed by the experience, the two children were greatly excited by it."
TFI Friday has fallen foul of the regulator on a number of occasions in the past, usually for breaching its bad language and taste and decency regulations.
Chris Evans, and his production company Ginger, refused to comment on the warning.Reuse content