ITV has threatened Channel 4 current affairs programme Dispatches with legal action if it broadcasts the results of an investigation which apparently revealed that Coronation Street stars were willing to plug phoney products on Twitter.
The Sun today revealed details of the undercover sting which saw Dispatches set up shop at a “gifting event” which aims to persuade celebrities to promote products to their Twitter followers.
Undercover journalists from Dispatches were apparently at the event promoting a range of products under the Puttana Aziendale brand (Italian words which in translation mean 'corporate whore').
Stars were given products including a “Mistique spray” and a “zionate bracelet”, the Sun reports.
Afterwards one of the actors involved said on Twitter: “Thank you to @aziendale for my lovely healing anklet!!:) xx”, the Sun reports.
Another actress reportedly Tweeted: “Absolutely love my @aziendale bracelet and Mustique Spray!!! Can’t wait to check out your other bracelets!xxx”
A Coronation Street source told The Sun: “Corrie stars get invited to these gifting events all the time. But at this one they were fed a load of rubbish anout the mystical powers of completely fake products and it looks like they fell for it fit hook line and sinker.”
In 2011 the Office of Fair Trading issued guidance on paid-for Twitter messages. It said: "Online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose they include paid-for promotions are deceptive under trading laws."
Advertising Standards Authority rules say that marketing communications must be clearly identified as such. On Twitter this can be done by adding #spons or #ad to messages.
Press Gazette understands that Dispatches did not work with The Sun on its story (which was obtained independently by the paper). The planned documentary does not yet have a confirmed broadcast date.
An ITV spokeswoman told The Sun: “The programme has made allegations that are false and highly defamatory and we have written to the producer threatening legal action if they decide to broadcast.”
An ITV spokeswoman later told Press Gazette: "Cast members responded to tweets sent directly to them by some brands to say thank you. 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.”
A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “We do not comment on upcoming Dispatches programmes.”