Julia Bradbury: hires different brands for presenting

Julia Bradbury, one of the Countryfile presenters

The producers of the BBC’s Countryfile programme have been rapped for allowing its presenters to give undue prominence to an outdoor brand.

Two presenters wore Rab jackets in editions of the programme broadcast in November and December last year.

Two people complained that the presenters were guilty of product placement, but the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee dismissed the complaints as no payment or deal had been made by Derbyshire brand.

The committee did rule, however, that the clothing company had been given undue prominence, in breach of BBC guidelines.

The two complainants, who were not named, had their original grievances dismissed by the BBC so appealed to the trust.

The first suggested the Countryfile stars should be given BBC-branded clothing. The second person said: “It is not necessary to wear logos to obtain weather protection.

“The programme is unwittingly creating the perfect product placement for which a brand owner would pay handsomely.”

He said that Countryfile does not include glimpses of brands from time to time but ‘features branded clothing for extended periods in close up and features the same brand from programme to programme’.

The programme’s producers said it is a fact of life that most clothing of this kind is heavily branded, so in it is almost unavoidable that labelling will feature in shot at some point.

They said they did not agree most outdoor clothing is unbranded and in their experience the vast majority of brands are very readily identifiable, even those sold by budget retailers.

“This is particularly so with ‘high specification’ technical wear used in filming, which has to be suitable in a range of sometimes extreme conditions.”

They said they do aim to avoid the undue prominence of any particular brand or product and take every step to ensure that the programme conforms to the BBC guidelines if any is featured.

The producers told the committee: “Both presenters have confirmed, through their executive editor, that the outdoor clothing in question was bought or hired by them directly in accordance with BBC guidelines.

Rab Carrington, who founded the outdoor company in Sheffield before selling it in nine years ago

Rab Carrington, who founded the outdoor company in Sheffield before selling it nine years ago

“One of the presenters hires some of her clothing by agreement with the BBC specifically to ensure that no single brand or style features too frequently in any of the series in which she appears.

“Hired items of clothing are paid for at commercial rates. The presenters have confirmed that the clothing worn by them in the programmes was neither provided at low or no cost, nor was it subject to any agreement that the brand should be worn onscreen.

“The programme-making team accepts that it is unfortunate that two presenters should have chosen to wear the same brand of outerwear in the same programme, but given that this happened in November and December, during very cold weather, it was a question of coincidence rather than collusion.

“On each occasion the two presenters were working in different locations and with different directors, so it wasn’t until the final editing stage that the problem became apparent.”

The Trust said its committee noted the BBC’s explanation that it was coincidental that two presenters chose to wear the same brand of outerwear in the same programme and that it was also a coincidence that two presenters wore the same branded clothing in both programmes.

“The committee noted what the BBC said it had done to minimise any undue prominence issues by cutting away and limiting the branding,” it said.

“The committee agreed, however, that the wearing of the same visibly branded clothing by two of the programme’s presenters in the two editions of the programme which are the subject of this appeal did amount to undue prominence which gave the impression that the programmes were promoting or endorsing these products.

“The committee concluded that in these programmes the cumulative effect was that the branded clothing was unduly prominent and amounted to a breach of the guidelines covering product prominence.”

Former British Mountaineering Council president Rab Carrington founded the company in Sheffield to produce clothing and sleeping bags.

He sold the company in 2004 and the brand is now owned by Equip Outdoor Technologies, based near Alfreton.