Channel 4 to air Dispatches Coronation Street sting despite ITV legal threat

Channel 4 will broadcast a Dispatches programme featuring allegations that Coronation Street actors plugged fake products on Twitter, despite the threat of legal action from ITV.

The sting operation on the soap stars features in the “Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans” film, which has been given a broadcast date of Monday 5 August.

Dispatches set up a shop at a “gifting event”, where brands offer free products to celebrities in exchange for social media endorsements.

The filmmakers offered a range of products, including a “mystique spray” and a “zionate bracelet”, which they claimed was made and blessed by Buddhist monks, under the phoney Puttana Aziendale brand. The name translates from Italian as “corporate whore”.

The actors are alleged to have then mentioned the products on Twitter. According to guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority, stars can promote products on Twitter but their tweets should include hashtags stating #spons or #ad.

ITV has threatened legal action over the programme.

A spokeswoman told Press Gazette earlier this month that the actors were responding to tweets sent directly to them by brands.

She added: “Contrary to the allegations which have been made, they didn’t receive free gifts in return for tweeting or indulge in any kind of unlawful marketing promotion”.

News of the programme, which includes covertly filmed footage of the gifting event, was broken by The Sun earlier this month.

The paper quoted a “Coronation Street source” as saying that the actors fell for the sting “hook, line and sinker”.

The show's billing states: "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."

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: "We stand by our journalism and the evidence we have collected. We intend to broadcast on 5 August."

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