A few months ago I was interviewed for BBC Good Homes magazine on debts and what to do with them. The feature was then written up by a journalist based on this information – the piece itself is great and runs over two pages.
Sadly, slap bang opposite the second page is a full page advert for a secured loan company. As many of you will know I’ve campaigned about secured loans in the past, and have launched two large petitions about it; one trying to stop these ads appearing on children’s TV and the other appealing to Carol Vorderman to ask her to please stop doing secured loan adverts.
Therefore, when I see this type of ad next to a piece with my name on, I feel uncomfortable. Of course, I understand how it works. The mag’s ad team simply formats a magazine after the articles are in. It’s not deliberate – and thankfully it’s very obvious I’m not personally endorsing the advert.
In this case, though, it feels inappropriate. Long ago I accepted that journalism lives in a commercial world – TV, newspapers, radio and magazines all often carry ads. And of course, while I’ve control on this site, I don’t have control elsewhere.
Yet there are levels. A secured loan ad neighbouring an article on getting out of debt crisis is about as bad as it gets. I could’ve coped with it next to a piece about cutting telephone bills – but this was a wee bit too close to home especially as I’ve received a number of emails on the subject. It’s doubly ironic that it’s in a BBC magazine (though of course BBC Worldwide which owns the mag is a separate commercial arm of the Beeb).
Anyway, after seeing it, I thought I’d better put a call in to the Editor. As it happens she’s brand new and was literally on her first day in the office. She was very understanding about my concerns and kindly agreed that if we do any more it’d be a perfectly legitimate request to ensure such ads weren’t butted up against the piece.
It’s a good lesson learned by me to be a bit more specific in such an arena. Of course in a fluid environment like ITV you have no control, but with newspapers, and especially mags, it should be less difficult to implement a little bit of discretion.