Ofcom raps C4 over Big Brother sponsor

Channel 4 has been rapped by Ofcom for breaching sponsorship rules during this summer's run of the reality TV show Big Brother.

The series was sponsored by Carphone Warehouse's fixed- line service Talk Talk. Ofcom ruled that idents containing the line "Free Talk on Talk Talk" were in breach of its programming code, which prohibits sponsorship credits from making direct reference to product benefits.

The ruling followed a complaint from Carphone Warehouse's main fixed-line rival, BT. Ofcom agreed with BT that the "Free Talk" element of the strapline constituted a reference to a benefit of the Talk Talk service.

Channel 4 had argued, unsuccessfully, that the phrase was about encouraging people to talk as freely as possible and that it tapped into the fact that the Big Brother series was primarily concerned with the dynamic of relationships.

Ofcom stated in its ruling: "Sponsorship credits should be distinct from advertising and, as such, should ... (not) include specific references to the attributes, benefits or prices of those products and services. We believe the statement 'Free talk on Talk Talk' did promote a benefit ... and was unlikely to be seen as a reference to the freedom to talk openly."

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