Countryfile breached guidelines on product prominence

Countryfile The programme recently celebrated its 25th anniversary

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The BBC Trust has concluded that Countryfile breached guidelines on product prominence when two presenters wore clothing from the same brand in two episodes last year.

In editions on 18 November and 9 December, both presenters wore items from the outdoor gear company Rab.

The programme-makers said it was a coincidence that the presenters, who were filming in different locations, wore the same brand.

Extra measures were taken to avoid undue prominence when the problem emerged in the final stages of editing.

However two viewers made official complaints, including one who wrote: "The programme is unwittingly creating the perfect product placement for which a brand owner would pay handsomely."

The other viewer asked why presenters could not be provided with suitable clothing branded by the BBC's logo.

'Undue prominence'

In a report from the Trust's editorial standards committee on Tuesday, the BBC said the presenters bought or hired the clothing in accordance with corporation guidelines, adding that Countryfile hosts pay for their clothing and choose outfits depending on their individual filming schedule.

BBC management commented there were "no deals between the presenters and clothing manufacturers, and no question of particular ranges of clothing appearing onscreen in exchange for cash, or in return for being supplied at low cost or no cost".

However the BBC Trust agreed the wearing of the same brand by two presenters in both editions "did amount to undue prominence, which gave the impression that the programmes were promoting or endorsing these products".

They therefore concluded the "cumulative effect" breached BBC guidelines on product prominence.

Regarding the issue of BBC-branded clothing, the Trust said those decisions were related to operational matters and were therefore the responsibility of the BBC Executive.

But they added that they "would expect the Executive to take whatever steps were necessary to avoid a further breach of this sort".

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We note the findings and have subsequently taken steps in consultation with directors and presenters to avoid this happening in the future."

Countryfile, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last Sunday, is one of the BBC's most popular factual programmes and draws an average of six million viewers.

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