Branded Content: Ofcom Upholds Complaints against the Alan Titchmarsh Show and the Paul O‰’grady Show

Ofcom has recently published two adjudications which give guidance on the promotion of products and services within programmes.

The following are the relevant provisions of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code:

Rule 10.3 Products and services must not be promoted in programmes.

Rule 10.4 No undue prominence may be given in any programme to a product or service.

Undue prominence” may result from:

(i) The presence of, or reference to, a product or service (including company names, brand names, logos) in a programme where there is no editorial justification; or

(ii) The manner in which a product or service (including company names, brand names and logos) appears or is referred to in a programme.

Rule 10.5 Product placement is prohibited.

The Alan Titchmarsh Show

Viewers complained that during Alan Titchmarsh’s live interview with the actress Jane Seymour on ITV on 23 March 2009 her range of jewellery and clothing had been heavily promoted.

Viewers also complained that during Titchmarsh’s “as live” interview with the actress Stephanie Beacham on 26 March 2009 a range of skin care products had likewise been prominently promoted.

Ofcom’s Findings

Whilst there was no evidence of product placement (Rule 10.5), Ofcom upheld the complaints regarding both interviews finding that Channel TV, an ITV licence holder and the broadcaster responsible for compliance with the Code, had breached Rules 10.3 and 10.4 for the following reasons:

  1. Although the Seymour interview was live, Titchmarsh had both initiated the conversation regarding her range of clothes and had made no attempt to draw the conversation away from her commercial ventures.
  2. During the interview, Titchmarsh sought details from Seymour about the full name of her clothing range and how she came to be associated with it which Ofcom considered to be a line of questioning that had more in common with a paid-for promotion spot than a chat show.
  3. There was insufficient editorial relevance or justification for the manner and frequency of the references to Ms Seymour’s jewellery range during the programme.
  4. Whilst Ofcom noted that Stephanie Beacham “has always been famous for her good looks”, it did not accept that the programme’s references to her skin care venture were editorially justified or relevant.
  5. Ofcom was concerned that Beacham’s range of skin care products had been prominently displayed and shot on a table during the interview.
  6. Ofcom felt that the claims and endorsements Beacham had made about her skin care range during her interview were more comparable to the style and manner of a tele-shopping broadcast than a chat show.
  7. Ofcom noted that Titchmarsh had referred to the skin care company’s website by name and had directed viewers to it and found that there was insufficient editorial justification for doing so.
  8. Ofcom noted that no mention was made during the interview that Beacham’s involvement with the skin-care products was based on a commercial arrangement with the manufacturer.

The Paul O’Grady Show

Viewers complained that during Paul O’Grady’s live show broadcast on Channel 4 on 24 March 2009 undue prominence had been given to an anti-aging serum product.

Ofcom’s Findings

  1. Ofcom found no evidence that the anti-aging product had featured in the programme as a result of a commercial arrangement and so held that there was no breach of the rule prohibiting product placement (Rule 10.5).
  2. Ofcom noted that, whilst O’Grady had deviated from the intended script, which provided for only one reference to the product, he had named the product six times in a two-minute slot which was both unjustified and unduly prominent.
  3. Ofcom was concerned that the anti-aging product’s packaging had been clearly visible throughout the shot, including by being held up to the camera by O’Grady and shot in close-up.
  4. Ofcom found that whilst O’Grady’s proclamation during the programme that the product “reduces fine lines and wrinkles in 5 minutes” was intended to be humorous, it nonetheless amounted to an advertising claim and was therefore unjustified.

Ofcom held that there was no breach of Rule 10.5 but that the broadcaster had contravened both Rule 10.3 and Rule 10.4.


These adjudications indicate that Ofcom will review programmes objectively having regard to the overall programme and its effect on, and how it will be considered by, the normal viewer. Neither the broadcaster’s nor the presenter’s intentions will be taken into consideration in determining whether or not there has been a breach of Rules 10.3 and 10.4.

Although it is common for chat show interviewees to refer to their latest venture and to other products or services, such references must be editorially justified and not unduly prominent to avoid breaching the Code. The more commercial the interviewee’s venture and the more prominent the reference is to it, the greater the risk of breaches of Rules 10.3 and 10.4.


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Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.