Is it news? BBC accused of plugging Elle Macpherson

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The Independent Online

Viewers have complained that a BBC programme, in which a reporter spent "a day in the life" of Elle Macpherson was effectively an "advert" for the supermodel's lingerie collection.

The Corporation has declined to investigate complaints that On The Road With Elle Macpherson, which was broadcast on the BBC News Channel, went against its rules on advertising.

The reporter Matthew Stadlen followed the 47-year-old Australian as she launched her lingerie range in Paris, spending time in her house and trailing her as she went on a publicity tour and while she viewed her collection in a shop window there.

The BBC confirmed that its information team had received five complaints from viewers and a spokesman said they were in the process of responding to them but the Corporation was not undertaking any investigation.

Viewers writing on the media blog DigitalSpy criticised the BBC. One wrote: "I'm glad someone has picked this up because I was watching BBC news and then it cut to 30 minutes of Elle Macpherson doing publicity for herself... I hope Ofcom get involved because I don't want the BBC to think they can get away with crap like that."

Another said: "I can't think of any other network that is so obsessed with celebs," while another wrote: "I saw a bit of this and thought 'This is news?'"

In January, the BBC was accused of giving the Irish group U2 the sort of publicity "money can't buy" after its editorial complaints unit ruled the Corporation's alleged "blanket coverage" of an album launch, during which the group played on the roof of Television Centre, gave "undue prominence for commercial products or organisations".

A BBC spokesman explained that On The Road With... is "a new series on BBC News Channel covering a range of prominent and interesting public figures, giving a unique insight into their world".

She added: "The first episode looked at a day in the life of businesswoman and model Elle Macpherson, and subsequent episodes will follow a senior police chief constable as well as top figures from the worlds of business, sports and science. Of course, this is just one part of the channel's offering alongside its daily domestic and global news and analysis."