The BBC Trust has barred the corporation from signing a new sponsor for its Sports Personality of the Year event when its two-year deal with Robinson ends later this year. It comes after the Trust ruled that on-air coverage given to the sponsor last year breached guidelines.
The Trust investigated the sponsorship after complaints from ITV and RadioCentre on editorial and fair trading grounds. ITV and RadioCentre, the commercial radio trade body, further alleged breach of the charter and the BBC’s Framework Agreement, following broadcast of the event on BBC One, bbc.co.uk and Radio 5 in December.
Previously, the BBC defended the deal with Robinsons claiming it is allowed because the brand is an event sponsor, which it is allowed to have, not a broadcast sponsor, which is banned.
The Trust has ruled that the BBC’s editorial guidelines were breached for reasons including the prominence of the Robinsons’ logo on set as well as a number of on-air mentions of the squash brand during the event.
The Trust said in a statement: “The [Sports Personality] programme and website compromised the editorial integrity of the BBC by giving the impression that (via a programme) part of the BBC service had been sponsored.”
The BBC must now review its contract with Robinson’s owner Britvic to ensure it does not make promises about on-air credits, signage at the event and it must ensure that the link between bbc.co.uk and Britvic’s website comply fully with editorial guidelines.
BBC director-general Mark Thompson must also present the Trust with all uses of alternative finance sourced from third parties by the BBC and send a written apology to both ITV and RadioCentre.
The Trust says the decision “does not imply any wrongdoing or fault” by Britvic or the Robinsons brand.
A Britvic spokeswoman says: “We will be discussing the implication of this report with the BBC in the near future and do not wish to comment on the report until we meet with the BBC.”