THE BBC has been accused of “advertising on the sly” after a string of presenters wore jackets made by a Wearside company.
Bosses negotiated a 45 per cent discount on the jackets, made by Sunderland-based Berghaus, which normally cost up to £320.
Historian Neil Oliver, news anchor George Alagiah and correspondent Nick Ravenscroft were among the presenters and reporters then spotted wearing them.
Now angry viewers have raised fears on internet message boards and blogs about “free advertising”.
Tory MP Philip Davies said: “It is inappropriate for any relationship between the BBC and a commercial organisation wanting to advertise through the back door. This appears to be that.”
Lib Dem culture spokesman Don Foster said: “The BBC should be squeaky clean about commercial arrangements.”
The Beeb has spent £18,000 on 169 Berghaus jackets in the past year.
Both the BBC and Berghaus, which has its headquarters at the Sunderland Enterprise Park, off Wessington Way, have denied any advertising or sponsorship deals.
Richard Cotter, Berghaus brand president, said: “No advertising or sponsorship deal exists between the BBC and Berghaus as this would break the BBC’s editorial guidelines.
“Over the years, the BBC and its reporters have chosen to buy Berghaus products for use while working outdoors.
“Of course, we are pleased that correspondents, camera operators and others working in the media choose our kit.
“As is the case with many other businesses, it is common practice for us to agree favourable trade terms for broadcasters, such as the BBC, and for individual staff.
“However, there is absolutely no advertising or sponsorship agreement or implicit understanding.
“We simply supply fit-for -purpose products that will both do the job and stand the test of time.
“If the BBC was paying full price for premium outdoor kit, then I’m sure there would be an outcry about taxpayers’ money being wasted.
“As it is, the BBC has sensibly negotiated trade terms with Berghaus, which is simply good practice and not unusual at all, for products that it needs.
“That’s where the relationship starts and ends.”
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC never agrees to clothing discounts in exchange for on-air promotion. Berghaus is one of a number of manufacturers of clothing used by the BBC.
“However, in accordance with our editorial guidelines, no one brand is given undue prominence.”