GMTV broke broadcasting rules by effectively promoting money-saving expert and News of the World columnist Martin Lewis’s business, the broadcasting watchdog has ruled.
Ofcom considered a viewer’s complaint about the regular feature on GMTV With Lorraine called Deals of the Week, featuring Lewis as a guest.
The regulator viewed an example of Deals of the Week broadcast on January 14, when Lewis, who was voted as the nation’s second favouritel business journalist in a Press Gazette poll last year, discussed gym passes.
He told viewers: “To choose a gym make sure you get one of the free passes.
“Now these are some of those that are available with vouchers you can print off the internet now. Guess what – all on gm.tv.”
Ofcom found that while GMTV’s web page contained information on the deals, viewers had to click through to Lewis’s own website – moneysavingexpert.com – for full details of offers and vouchers.
The regulator asked for GMTV’s comments under a rule of the Broadcasting Code which states that products and services must not be promoted in programmes.
GMTV said it received no payment from Lewis for either his appearance on GMTV or any reference to moneysavingexpert.com on GMTV’s website. As with most expert contributors, Lewis is paid for his appearances.
The morning broadcaster said that to suggest the thrust of the item was to direct viewers to gm.tv and ultimately moneysavingexpert.com was inaccurate and disingenuous, and insisted that viewers could obtain the benefits of the advice without visiting moneysavingexpert.com, with the reference to gm.tv being secondary to the information on the show.
It said that moneysavingexpert.com provides information without the need to buy any good or service or to subscribe.
GMTV took steps to remove the references pending the outcome of Ofcom’s investigation, but stressed that this in no way implied that GMTV considered the practice had been dubious.
Ofcom found: “Irrespective of whether or not the site generated revenue as a result of the deals promoted within the programme, Ofcom considers that this third-party website is nevertheless a commercial business.
“By inviting viewers to obtain further information and vouchers on the GMTV website, and then redirecting them to Martin Lewis’s commercial website to obtain that information, the programme was effectively promoting his business.
“As a result of this promotion, the programme was in breach of the code.”