Wrist Slapped, the BBC Dumps Programme Sponsorship

23 July 2008

LONDON: Wrist well and truly slapped by its governing body the BBC Trust, UK public service broadcaster the BBC has undertaken not to allow further third-party sponsorship of broadcast TV and radio events.

The reprimand and policy backtrack follows a complaint by rival broadcaster ITV and the Radio Centre, representing commercial radio stations.

It concerns the indirect sponsorship by Britvic soft drinks brand Robinson's of the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year TV coverage in December.

Although the broadcaster's charter clearly prohibits advertising, the issue of sponsorship has hitherto been a grey area. Especially when it is an event that attracts sponsorship - as opposed to a programme covering that event.

On Monday the Trust issued an edict banning all future sponsorships, while criticising the broadcaster for the Robinson's event which, it says, damaged the show's editorial integrity.

Read a statement: "The Trust has concluded that several of the editorial guidelines were breached and the editorial integrity of the BBC compromised by giving the impression to licence fee payers via Sports Personality of the Year that part of a BBC service had been sponsored.

"UK audiences expect to receive BBC programmes that are free of advertising and wholly impartial. Anything that creates an impression that a programme may be sponsored is wrong and contrary to the BBC's editorial guidelines.”

Head hung in contrition the broadcaster responded: "In the context of Monday's findings, the management of the BBC has reviewed its sponsorship policy and has concluded that it should no longer accept sponsorship from commercial bodies for any on-air BBC event."

The move is likely to cost the BBC around £1.5 million ($2.99m; €1.89m) annually and, in addition to Sports Personality of the Year, will affect other broadcast events.

They include Radio 3's New Generation Artists Scheme, sponsored by Aviva, Proms in the Park, sponsored by National Savings & Investments, and BBC Four's World Cinema Awards.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff