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ZDF sacks talkshow host

Kiewel plugged weight-loss firm

BERLIN — German pubcaster ZDF fired versatile talkshow host Andrea Kiewel on Friday after it emerged she had a PR contract with a weight-loss company that she repeatedly plugged on air.

“Surreptitious advertising is not acceptable at ZDF,” said ZDF topper Markus Schaechter. “Andrea Kiewel has destroyed the basis of trust in connection with the PR contract that has only now come to light with the Weight Watchers organization.”

Film clips of Kiewel repeatedly mentioning the company’s name during appearances on three different ZDF programs in the last year surfaced on Thursday night in an ARD satire by latenight talkshow host Harald Schmidt. German media reports said that Kiewel had even denied she had a PR contract when asked by another ZDF host if she were working for the organization. Kiewel, who has herself had a very public battle with weight control over the years, has since apologized, saying it was a mistake.

Two years ago rival pubcaster ARD was rocked by a product placement scandal stretching back over 10 years that tarnished its credibility.

The scandal infuriated ARD execs who claim they had no knowledge of the practice and introduced measures to prevent illegal advertising on their programs after that. Writers and producers of all ARD broadcasts were required to watch “educational videos” to make sure they were aware of the verboten practice.

The ARD soap “Marienhof” was particularly aggressive. Its cast had dispensed home improvement tips, travel advice and even support for Turkey’s admission to the European Union, all for a fee.

ZDF program director Thomas Bellut added: “Every host at ZDF knows that surreptitious advertising is verboten. I’m sorry that we’re losing a popular host and know she has a lot of fans. We’ll start our search for a replacement as soon as possible.”

ZDF said it would prevent any of the shows in question from being re-broadcast.

Kiewel was also sacked on Friday by East German pubcaster MDR, a small web in the ARD network, where she occasionally hosted programs.

“There’s no room in public broadcasting for surreptitious advertising,” said MDR TV director Wolfgang Vietze.

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