“A disgrace.” Gruen, Checkout producer slams ABC deal with Swisse.

Exclusive: "It is astounding that the ABC thinks that Swisse is an appropriate brand partner..." says producer Nick Murray.

EXCLUSIVE: ABC International’s partnership with Swisse is already at the centre of a branding problem, with Nick Murray, Executive Producer of Gruen and The Checkout, slamming ABC management over the deal.

Murray, from production company Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder, told TV Tonight, “It’s a disgrace.

“It shows an appalling lack of judgement from ABC International.

“(Swisse) spends about 30 times more on marketing than they do on the actual ingredients in their products and they have been found to have produced marketing materials which are (at best) inaccurate in material aspects.”

A 2013 Checkout story on the Therapeutic Goods Administration suggested the company’s products highlighted “everything that’s wrong with the regulation of natural medicines in Australia.” A defamation lawsuit by Avni Sali, father of the CEO, followed against Murray, Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel. It was eventually settled but not without lawyers at ten paces, with ABC management backing its Checkout team.

“The story on The Checkout correctly pointed out that the father of the CEO of Swisse was involved in the testing of certain vitamin supplements which were marketed as being ‘independently tested,'” Murray said.

“We don’t like them and they don’t like us.  It is astounding that the ABC thinks that Swisse is an appropriate brand partner…”ABC yesterday announced Swisse, the Victorian Government and Monash University as partners for ABC International which showcases Australian life into Asia-Pacific on its Australia Plus service. It likened the deal to BBC Worldservice, noting ABC International is permitted under the ABC Act to partner with commercial organisations.

But Murray questioned how the deal would impact on ABC’s editorial independence. Both Gruen and The Checkout are currently on air

“You can see why Swisse are keen to attach themselves to a brand that is trusted.  It follows in the footsteps of their pointless sporting brand ambassadors who presumably don’t actually use the product,” he said.

“How is it going to be possible for the ABC to maintain relationships with commercial parties such as Swisse when it also broadcasts shows that Swisse dislikes?

“How will ABC Management including Lynley Marshall and the Managing Director balance independent programming decisions with the commercial pressures from huge advertisers like Swisse?”

The Checkout presenter Kirsten Drysdale also took to social media to question the deal.

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Yesterday an ABC spokesperson told TV Tonight, “All Australia Plus content is subject to the established and rigorous requirements of the Editorial Policies. The commercial partnerships will in no way undermine the ABC’s commitment to these policies.”

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