THE BROADCASTING Standards Commission has ruled that the BBCTV show Watchdog unfairly criticised ThomsonHolidays for its treatment of customers who were caught in a hurricane.

The company lodged the complaint with the BSC after a Watchdog show in 1998 revealed how Thomson was forced to cut short a cruise from Mexico to Florida on its ship Topaz as a result of Hurricane Georges.

Thomson made holidaymakers abandon the cruise and flew them to Florida to catch their connections home and avoid the hurricane.

The programme suggested this was a dangerous thing to do because there was a tornado alert in Florida. It also suggested customers were given no choice about the course of action.

Thomson Holidays deputy managing director Shaun Powell said: "The thing we really took umbrage about was the suggestion we had put our customers in danger in any way. Concern for safety is at the core of our business and that was being attacked."

The BBC refused to allow Travel Weekly to speak directly with Watchdog programme makers and issued a statement saying: "Watchdog is often the last resort for people and our agenda is set by the viewer. By the very nature of what we do, exposing the faults and failings of companies which they would rather keep quiet, we attract complaints. We are obviously hitting a nerve.

"When we get it wrong we are happy to say so," it added.

Watchdog will broadcast the adjudication on September 16 at 7.28pm and The Times newspaper will print it on the same day.

n Thomson has appointed Breffni Walsh as head of advertising and branding. Her role, which also covers brochure production, is an expansion of the job held by Andrea Preducov, who left to join Sainsbury's Homebase.

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