BBC deal to plug Coca-Cola criticised

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The Independent Online

A multimillion-pound deal granting Coca-Cola, the global drinks brand, weekly plugs on the BBC was condemned yesterday as "inappropriate and hypocritical".

The deal was finalised weeks after Coca-Cola pledged to stop targeting the under-12s because of growing concerns about the link between sugary products and child obesity. The Food Commission, the independent watchdog, condemned the company's apparent volte-face.

As part of the two-year deal between Coca-Cola and the Official UK Charts Company, the brand will be named weekly by the BBC, which traditionally distances itself from advertising as a publicly funded body. Coca-Cola will be mentioned twice during the Radio 1 chart rundown on Sunday evenings. It will also be named as a sponsor during BBC1's Top Of The Pops and Radio 2's album chart.

While it is not the first time the BBC's music charts have been sponsored, the deal has come at a time of heightened concern over the possible links between junk food and rising rates of obesity. Kath Dalmeny, a policy officer at the Food Commission, said the implications of targeting a "young" audience with a "highly sugary drink" were serious in terms of children's health.

"Coca-Cola is being extremely two-faced and hypocritical by getting involved in such a deal," she said. "They have had a lot of very positive publicity recently saying that they will not target the under-12s in their advertising. "

She added: "We will be lodging a complaint with the BBC. For the BBC to be promoting a highly sugary drink at a time when everyone is concerned about the health of children and their calorie intake is extremely inappropriate."

However, the BBC said they had not been involved in brokering the deal which had been dealt with directly by the music charts company and Coca-Cola.

A spokesman for the corporation said the health implications of drinking Coca-Cola were insufficient to warrant the intervention of the BBC. "The BBC is able to veto unsuitable brands. But Coca-Cola is not illegal and it's not unsavoury."