Health Campaigners Angered by BBC, Coca-Cola Charts Deal

03 December 2003

The BBC, seen across the globe as a beacon of impartial, non-commercial public interest broadcasting, finds itself again in hot water (or cola chambré).

Not this time because of its alleged lack of empathy with the Bush-Blair Iraq war aims; nor its putative incursions into the preserves of commercial website-owners.

But because it has climbed into bed with that icon of commercial imperialism, Coca-Cola. Worse yet, Auntie BBC has done so at a time when Coke's head is heaped with coals of fire for its purported contribution to the obesity of global youth.

Run as it is by hardnosed ex-commercial TV executives, the BBC is not exactly naïve. Yet this bastion of public service broadcasting, which eschews advertising on its TV channels and radio stations, on Monday found itself landed with Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the music charts used by its pop station Radio 1 and BBC1's TV youth show Top of the Pops. Although not directly sponsoring the programmes, the BBC will twice credit the brand on-air in each show.

Intoned a Radio 1 spokesman piously: "We are not involved in brokering the deal between the Official UK Charts Company and potential sponsors." However, the BBC's internal guidelines conveniently allow it to mention sponsors of other organisations' events and products. There had been precedents, said the mouthpiece, citing the mention on soccer and sports programmes of the Barclaycard Premiership League.

But health campaigners were not impressed by this lofty disavowal, and especially not by Coca-Cola's motives. "It's two-faced of Coca-Cola," fumed Food Commission policy officer Kath Dalmeny. "They got lots of positive publicity when they said they would not advertise to children under twelve. But this announcement shows that Coca-Cola's promise just doesn't hold water."

Coca-Cola, seemingly unrepentant, claimed the "ground-breaking" sponsorship would be good for the record industry, promoting "sales of singles, albums and legal downloads".

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff