Media: Lifeline - Illicit product placement

Richard and Judy's latest transgression highlights the risks of flouting the rules.

1994: Broadcasters had been testing the boundaries since the late 80s. In 1994, the Independent Television Commission steps in and fines Granada £500,000 for placement of beauty products in This Morning - hosted by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan (pictured).

2001: LWT is fined £100,000 when an ITC investigation reveals that nightclubs had paid to be featured in a late-night music series. Prolific Pictures, which had produced the shows for LWT, had asked club owners for "fees and expenses" to get on the show. The ITC report concludes that the editorial judgment of both Prolific Pictures and LWT has been compromised.

May 2003: With the ITC now due to be replaced by Ofcom, several satellite channels again begin pushing the boundaries. The lifestyle channel You TV, the most outrageous offender, is hit with a £40,000 fine and the threat of closure for running teleshopping ads and passing them off as features. It had already been fined earlier in the year for similar offences.

September 2003: The ITC warns five that it has been skating on thin ice with Dinner Doctors (pictured), funded by Heinz. Five's successful defence is that not all of the ingredients on the show are Heinz products and that Heinz is not directly involved in the show's production.

2005: Ofcom indicates it may be prepared to review the rules on product placement at some point in the near future. But for now the code remains unchanged - as is shown when Channel 4 is fined £5,000 for breaches by the Richard and Judy programme. It had featured Red Bull heavily in a slot looking at the benefits of caffeine.

Fast forward ...

2006: With spot advertising revenues now under pressure due to ad avoidance, Ofcom gives in to industry-wide pressure and relaxes its product-placement rules. The first movers are Madeley and Finnegan, who launch a home shopping segment on Channel 4, cunningly disguised as The Richard and Judy Show.