Alex Salmond’s show on the Kremlin-backed RT channel breached broadcasting rules, Ofcom has ruled.
The watchdog said “audience tweets” presented as having come from viewers had instead mostly been from production staff linked to the programme.
A complaint was made after the first episode of The Alex Salmond Show, alleging the programme had “invented tweets presented as real from viewers of the show to direct the debate on his views and terms”.
Questions asked by the Twitter users included why the former Scottish first minister had decided to front an RT show and whether he would stop Brexit if he were prime minister.
Four of six tweets or emails featured in the episode came from people connected with the show or Mr Salmond, either directly or indirectly, with one sent by “a freelance make-up girl who had been involved in rehearsals” and another from a “freelance cameraman and an acquaintance of one of the producers’ technicians”.
The programme aired in November last year.
An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “We found this programme broke our rules by misleading its audience.
“A series of messages were presented on-air as having come from viewers. In fact, most of them were from production staff linked to the programme.”
A spokesman for Slainte Media, which makes The Alex Salmond Show, said that as it was the first show of a recorded series, there were “obviously no existing viewers or live tweets to draw on in order to illustrate the audience participation section… thus we used comment from a variety of sources for the six questions”.
In a statement, the spokesman said: “Ofcom suggests that in these circumstances the inclusion of three questions from people with even remote connections to the show is enough for an ‘in breach’ finding; not because their questions were included but because it was not specifically mentioned that they were from a freelance hairdresser, a friend of a cameraman and someone who knew Mr Salmond!
“This ruling is despite the fact that the content of the questions were basically light-hearted (eg the English meaning of the Scots Gaelic word Slainte) and clearly pursued no particular agenda nor could possibly have caused any offence. In other words this ruling, even one with no proposed sanction, is out of all proportion to this very minor matter.”
The spokesman added that since the first show was broadcast, 34 shows had been produced “featuring this particular section on viewers’ questions with no difficulty or complaint whatsoever”.
This is the first decision to be made into 11 investigations that were launched by Ofcom into RT, with an investigation also under way into “the due impartiality of news and current affairs programmes on the RT news channel”.