These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Programme Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.
Showing Complaints & Interventions Report for DINNER DOCTORS
Date & time: Monday 9 June: 9.25am
Complaint from: Staff monitoring
Dinner Doctors was a series on Five showing busy families how to make mealtimes more appetising using everyday ingredients. There was advice from a relationship expert and a chef who recommended simple but healthy recipes. The series was funded by Heinz. Advertiser funded programmes are treated in the same way as sponsored programmes in terms of compliance with ITC Codes. In addition to the Programme Code, sponsored programmes must comply with the Code of Programme Sponsorship.
The key principle of the Code of Programme Sponsorship is that programmes should not be distorted for commercial purposes. A sponsor (or funder) must not influence the content or scheduling of a programme in such a way as to affect the editorial independence and responsibility of the broadcaster (section 4.1 of the Code of Programme Sponsorship).
Furthermore, Section 9.1 of the Code of Programme Sponsorship states that there can be no reference to a sponsor or its products in a programme they are sponsoring. This rule also extends to generic references to the sponsor's unbranded product. Where editorially justified, there may be occasions when a generic reference is acceptable, but this may never be in a way that suggests the generic reference is promotional for the sponsor.
Press reports, quoting Heinz's marketing agency, suggested that the sponsor had influenced the editorial content of the programmes to promote Heinz products. Staff monitored the series and found that there were generic references in the programmes to products of the kind manufactured by Heinz. The ITC asked Five whether, given the very close connection between Heinz and some of the products inevitably featured in Dinner Doctors (e.g. tins from the larder), it was appropriate for Heinz to fund the series. The ITC was also concerned that the content of the programmes (including the generic product references) and Heinz's statements in the press created the overall impression that Dinner Doctors was promotional for Heinz products.
Five provided evidence to the ITC that the commissioning and editorial process had been kept wholly separate from Heinz. Heinz had no involvement with the selection of the families that appeared in the programmes, the recipes featured or in any part of the production process.
Five argued that the premise of the programme series was to show the families, and viewers, how to better use food already in their kitchen. It was therefore to be expected that some tinned products would be used. Five said that they had taken care to ensure that the recipes used in the programme were healthy dishes and did not include food that parents may feel reluctant to give their children. The recipes were created for each family depending on their individual circumstances. Because of the editorial concept of the programme, which focused on meals where processed foods were not extensively used, Five did not consider Heinz to be an inappropriate source of funding.
Five said that of the two hundred ingredients used across the series, only five were of a type made by Heinz. Five pointed out that there are many companies that manufacture the same type of products as Heinz, such as baked beans or tomato sauce. These were products that would typically be found in households across the country and were staples of many recipes. Where these occurred, they were not included to satisfy any desire of Heinz to show their product, but because of the needs of the family and the recipe itself.
Five said they had been very concerned to read the comments in the press about the content of the programmes, as they implied that Five's editorial integrity had been compromised. Five told the ITC that the comments did not reflect the actual situation, and described them as post-transmission 'spin' as to the perceived success in bringing the brand to a television audience.
The ITC would not wish to discourage broadcasters from seeking alternative sources of programme funding, such as advertiser funded programmes. In the light of Five's detailed description of the production of the programmes, and Five's evidence that the editorial process was kept separate from Heinz, staff accepted that the series did not breach the Code of Programme Sponsorship.
The closeness in subject matter between a programme series like Dinner Doctors and a company like Heinz will always raise questions about the editorial integrity of the series. In this case the generic references to the sponsor's products came very close to having an overall promotional effect for Heinz, contrary to the Code of Programme Sponsorship. While staff were reassured on this occasion, the ITC would be concerned should this type of relationship be taken any further.
The programme series was not in breach of the Code of Programme Sponsorship.