Branson threatens legal action over C4 skit

Richard Branson has threatened Channel 4 with legal action over a satirical sketch in the Rory Bremner show featuring himself and the activities of the Virgin companies.

The sketch, which first aired on Friday November 15, was cut from the repeat showing last Wednesday, following a personal call from Branson to C4.

The Bremner skit parodied the current One2One mobile phone advertising campaign in which celebrities have a “one to one” conversation with a historical personality of their choice.

In the skit, Branson chooses himself, and asks a series of pointed questions about his own business activities. Some of these allegedly suggest – rhetorically – that Virgin companies operate double standards in their dealings with the gay community.

The skit ended with the line ‘Richard /one to one/Dick’; and the voiceover: “Well, that’s one way to describe him.”

Virgin spokesman Will Whitehorn says the complaint was about the whole sketch and in particular its comments on Virgin Direct, Branson’s financial services arm.

He says: “The item on the Rory Bremner show said things about Virgin Direct which were untrue. Humour is normally based on things that are true. It (the sketch) will not be repeated. I believe we have assurances that it will not be reshown.”

Branson is understood to have sought further redress from C4 in the form of an on-air apology.

Mark Lambert, a C4 lawyer, confirms the TV channel is in correspondence with Branson’s lawyers, Harbottle & Lewis, and that the matter is “ongoing”.

He says no “formal demand” has been made for an on-air apology but declined to comment on whether Branson is seeking any further redress.

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