ITV has sent Channel 4 a legal letter warning the company that its Dispatches investigation which has exposed Coronation Street actors for promoting a product on social media is potentially defamatory.
The broadcaster is understood to have warned Channel 4 that the proposed broadcast of the Dispatches programme may be unfairly defaming the performers who endorsed a fake product on Twitter.
Coronation Street actresses Brooke Vincent, Cherylee Houston and Krissi Bohn tweeted about the product called Puttana Aziendale and were offered fake company’s skin products and healing bracelets at a corporate event in Manchester earlier this year.
Former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati who played Sunita Alahan was also one of those to fall for the prank, it has emerged. She was photographed with a shopping bag at the fake event in Manchester in February.
Unbeknownst to them they were part of a sting by Chanel 4’s Dispatches and the product in Italian means Corporate Whore.
According to C4 sources the actresses could have breached Advertising Standards Authority guidelines. The rules state that sponsored messages on social networks should be clearly marked to avoid tricking followers.
The celebrities were given ‘Puttana Aziendale’ ‘anti-ageing skin toner’ – in actual fact just tap water – and a ‘zionate bracelet’ which was supposed to generate ‘positive energy’ but was really only costume jewellery.
Brooke Vincent who plays lesbian character Sophie Webster in the soap, wrote on Twitter: ‘Thank you to @aziendale for my lovely healing anklet!! 🙂 xx’
Bohn, whose character is Sophie’s girlfriend in the soapweeted: “@Aziendale Love my bracelet!! Thanks guys”
Huston who plays Izzy Armstrong posted a photograph of the bracelet on her wrist and the skin toner, and said: ‘I’ve slept in my bracelet and I’ve sprayed my face several times. Thank you so much I love them!’
Another actress to be caught in the sting was former Hollyoaks actress Sinead Moynihan who’s since hit back, changing her Twitter profile to read: Mum & actress. All opinions expressed here are purely my own and are in no way intended to endorse any product or person. Ok? That clear? Great!”
The programme, which has not yet got a broadcast date, will explore the wider issue of online marketing, including the commercial activity of big companies and accounts that pay for Twitter followers or pay people to send certain Tweets.
The same issues are explored over Facebook use as well, the source added.
Channel 4 declined to comment beyond its original statement which said: “We do not comment on upcoming Dispatches programmes.”
ITV insists that the performers “didn’t receive free gifts in return for tweeting or indulge in any kind of unlawful marketing promotion” and declined to comment further.