ITV has accused Channel 4 of shoddy journalism over its sting which saw various Coronation Street actors tweet about a product with the name Corporate Whore in Italian.
ITV’s group legal director Andrew Garard has written to Channel 4’s director of commercial affairs, Martin Baker, accusing it of seeking to “create a ‘scandal’ from entirely innocuous conduct.”
He reiterated ITV’s threat to sue C4 if it goes ahead with the planned broadcast of the investigation on 5 August.
He wrote: “As a public service broadcaster, I am amazed you would consider broadcasting this allegations – and, as I say above, I am astounded that this programme would be broadcast by you on Dispatches at all.”
“If you are seriously proposing to broadcast the programme and to include any allegations of wrongdoing against ITV and/or its employees in it, we (and the relevant individuals) will have no option but to issue proceedings against you for libel.
“As you will appreciate, as a fellow broadcaster ITV does not wish [to] have to take such action, but in the circumstances we will have no choice. Quite frankly, this is a shoddy piece of journalism in an attempt to create a ‘scandal’ from entirely innocuous conduct.”
Channel 4 responded abruptly to the threats and appered unmoved. A spokeswoman told RadioTimes.com: “We stand by our journalism and the evidence we collected”.
News of the stings leaked after the broadcaster sent legal rights to reply to the stars it had intended to feature in the documentary.
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 the actors they were part of a sting by Channel 4’s Dispatches and the name of the fake product means “Corporate Whore” in Italian.
The official billing for Disptatches says: “In this one-hour special Channel 4 Dispatches goes undercover to investigate what’s real and what’s fake in the brave new world of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
“Celebrities have considerable influence on social media. But are some less than transparent when tweeting brand names with their legions of fans?
“Dispatches exposes the new tricks used by marketeers to plug brands, from buying fake Facebook ‘likes’ and YouTube ‘views’ to influencing social media conversations.”
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 Dispatches film has been produced and directed by Chris Atkins, the film-maker behind the 2009 documentary Starsuckers.
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 soap tweeted: “@Aziendale Love my bracelet!! Thanks guys”
Houston 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!’