By Meg Carter and Chris Boulding
ITV has voiced growing fears about “creeping commercialism” at the BBC which, it emerged this week, has struck a third deal licensing a national newspaper to run a themed promotion based on one of its programmes.
The latest deal involves The Daily Telegraph, which has created an interactive game around BBC2 daily quiz series Today’s the Day.
It follows hard on the heels of two other deals – one involving The Sunday Times, which on Sunday launched an Antiques Roadshow promotion, the other involving Mirror Group and snooker quiz show Big Break (MW January 13).
ITV sales heads are concerned about such commercial partnerships, not least where they involve TV advertising, which newspaper companies wish ITV to carry.
After news emerged of the Mirror Group promotion, Andrew Quinn, ITV Network Centre chief executive and chairman of the ITV marketing forum, described it as “sponsorship by any other name”.
ITV subsequently decided not to run TV advertising for the Mirror’s Big Break promotion. However, it did broadcast ads for The Sunday Times’ Antiques Roadshow Game, themed around the BBC1 series of the same name.
As a result, Mirror Group promotions director Amanda Platell says the company is now considering legal action (see page 5). “There seems to be one law for News International, another for everyone else,” she says. “They couldn’t do this to Tesco and Sainsbury’s.”
In contrast, The Telegraph promotion does not involve any TV advertising support.
The BBC counters any suggestion that such commercial activities contravene the BBC Charter. It claims that it remains only a “contractor” in the Telegraph deal, which was worked out between the production company, Mentorn Films, and sales promotion company ZGC.
“Mentorn worked with ZGC to see how we [the Telegraph] could feed off the programme without breaking the regulations that govern the BBC,” says Telegraph circulation director Chris Haslum.
Under the BBC’s Royal Charter, no on-screen mentions of the paper are permitted. However, the Telegraph is negotiating for a mention on the 0898 premium rate telephone line given out during the show.
Mirror Group, page 5