OPINION: The reality of corporate deals

Last weekend, I witnessed an act of corporate misconduct. Perhaps not a crime punishable through a court of law, but nonetheless an action that was quite breathtaking by its audacity.

While walking on the chalky hill slopes near the Oxfordshire village of Uffington, I saw for myself the piece of advertising that some have dubbed "brandalism": a 300ft eye painted onto the hillside. From a distance the image is easily recognisable as the logo for Channel 4's TV show Big Brother.

The painting is sited next to Britain's oldest and most famous hill figure, the Bronze Age chalk carving of a White Horse. Channel 4 has persuaded the National Trust, the owners of the site, to allow them to paint the logo of the reality TV show onto the hillside as a huge publicity stunt in advance of the forthcoming new series.

The Big Brother logo has certainly attracted lots of visitors and perhaps just the level of media coverage that Channel 4 was hoping for. But the publicity has been anything but positive. Archaeologists are furious that a cultural landmark has been turned into an advertising billboard.

Local residents are outraged that the ancient site is publicising what they describe as "a tacky game show". One villager has even taken matters into his own hands and covered up part of the chalk eye with a tarpaulin with the message "BLIND" scrawled across it.

But the real crime isn't the TV channel's disfiguration of the landscape.

Indeed, the programme makers used an environmentally friendly chalk.

Nor is the stunt likely to taint the Bronze Age carving's reputation in the long-term. The White Horse will be remembered long after Big Brother has been forgotten.

No, Channel 4's real crime was that it only paid the National Trust a measly £2,000 to use the site. The trust described the deal as "an innovative way to raise funds", but, frankly, it was bought off cheap. In this day and age, the trust ought to have demanded a heftier sum for the use of its land. Having made a brave decision to exploit an unusual opportunity, the National Trust now looks like the one that has been exploited.

Lisa Harker, a freelance consultant

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