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Today show fails to disclose commercial arrangement

Media watchdog slaps Nine over a McDonald's plug, but Nine defended the broadcast.

Nine has breached broadcasting rules for failing to disclose a commercial arrangement with McDonald’s and the Today show.

An episode which aired in October 2020 saw the hosts discuss a new McDonald’s product line and presented the range on-camera.

[Allison Langdon]: It’s chicken parmi in a burger.
[Allison Langdon – pointing to the burger in front of Karl Stefanovic]: … That’s his apology.
[Karl Stefanovic – picking up a newspaper]: I was reading about this today right. This is Macca’s new chicken menu.
[Karl Stefanovic – to Allison Langdon]: You got. How did you do that? You organised that. I’m getting so emotional.
[Allison Langdon]: No. Well, I was worried that I was actually a tad too mean.
[Karl Stefanovic]: No. Not at all, now that you got a parmi for me. The best co-host ever.
Karl Stefanovic was seen eating the McDonald’s burger.

The second part of the segment was the weather report presented by Tim Davies, live and on location, with a small group of school children and their parents. Tim Davies was standing in front of a table with a tray showing burgers and packets of fries from McDonald’s.

[Tim Davies – removing a chicken nugget from a paper bag]: Ally, too good to have to oneself’. Look at this. I’ve got the new McDonald’s McChicken range here this morning.
[Tim Davies]: Do you guys want some chips with your chicken salt seasoning. You can do your McShaker fries for breakfast guys?
[…]
[Tim Davies – handing a burger to one of the school children]: There’s a new chicken parmi burger.
Following presentation of the weather forecast:
[Tim Davies]: A big thanks to Macca’s for sharing their new chicken menu with us this morning. It’s nice to be included. I know you guys back there in the studio get it for breakfast all the time. Karl’s always on Uber making sure that everyone’s well fed there in the studio. This morning they have delivered nicely for me and all my new friends here in Hervey Bay.
In the third and closing part of the segment Karl Stefanovic was shown eating a burger and making the following remarks:
[Karl Stefanovic]: So I’ve got to tell you. This is the best burger I’ve ever had. That is a great burger. […] The parmi. Why not?

Media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority found Nine did not satisfactorily bring to viewers’ attention that it had a commercial arrangement with McDonald’s, as required under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.

Under the Code, broadcasters must disclose commercial arrangements to viewers if they air material that endorses or features the products of a commercial partner. This can be done before, during or after the program or on the program’s official website.

Nine maintained Tim Davies informed viewers the menu range had been provided by McDonalds and defended that Code clause 4.1.3(a) does not expressly prescribe a particular standard of disclosure:

a) “I’ve got the new McDonalds McChicken range here this morning” (02:00);
b) “a big thanks to Maccas for sharing their new chicken menu with us this morning” (02:45); and
c) “this morning they [Macca’s] have delivered nicely for me and all my new friends in Hervey Bay” (02:58)

But ACMA ruled that the program was a Factual Program for the purposes of clause 4.1.1 of the Code as either a Current Affairs Program or an Infotainment Program.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said, “This kind of blurring of the lines between advertising and program content breaks down the audience’s trust in what they are seeing.

“Transparency around commercial arrangements is very important for viewers, particularly if the program contains a mix of facts, editorial and advertisements.

“In this case Channel Nine was not clear enough in disclosing their commercial arrangement and I expect them to do better.”

Accepting the breach finding, Today will list all its commercial arrangements on its website. Nine will also bring the ACMA investigation and finding to the attention of its staff.

7 Responses

  1. Another gentle slap on the wrist. When did ACMA last genuinely fine a network for a breach? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you!

    Each and every time, ‘staff counseling’ is the penalty. Waste of taxpayer money.

  2. So posting on their website, which no one reads, the Macca supplied burgers is OK. But annoucing it live during the programme where everyone saw it isn’t. More stupid crazy burueaucracy that basically tells the networks to fill their news with as much product placement as they want, and just post a long list of it on the internet that will never be read, and you’ll be fine.

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