RTE received over €561,000 from the Department of Health in the last two years in sponsorship for Operation Transformation.
The hit weight management programme has recently been caught in a controversy with some fearing it may trigger those with eating disorders and others condemning the lycra outfits leaders to wore in past seasons.
According to figures, in 2020 the Department of Health gave RTE €278,300 in 2020 and a further €282,000 in 2021. The money came from the Department’s ‘Healthy Ireland’ fund, which seeks to promote better habits and improve wellbeing.
An RTE spokesperson confirmed the sponsorship was made available on the market for tender and its the only sponsorship the programme receives. The sponsorship includes several ‘stings’, these include a logo appearing on radio, RTE’s social media accounts, on the website and on TV itself.
‘This is the only sponsorship available on Operation Transformation and Healthy Ireland won this tender. It does not receive sponsorship from any other body,’ the spokesperson said.
HSE National Clinical lead for Obesity Prof Donal O’Shea praised the programme as it gives ‘very good visibility to encourage a healthy lifestyle in January and February’.
When asked about the controversy surrounding the show, Prod O’Shea said: ‘It has changed from the beginning when it had no dietitian and there was more shaming and giving out.
‘I did not like that people were wearing lycra and the men were topless when weighed. It has changed a lot over the years.’
Prof O’Shea regularly meets with producers of Operation Transformation to give direction and advice. He says ‘it is not correct to label this programme as a driver of an eating disorder’, adding it’s ‘an entertainment show with lifestyle and weight part of it and not everyone will agree with that’.
According to Prof O’Shea a public health campaign would not have the same reach as Operation Transformation and would cost more money. He also believes it would be ‘very disappointing if the criticism led to it coming off the air’.
‘In my view it’s reinforcing this old fashioned stigmatising view that living with excess weight is down to motivation and the solution is to eat less and exercise more. It’s reinforcing the societal view that diet and exercise will treat it.
‘Every person, regardless of size, should be focused on healthy eating and exercising. As far as managing weight, they are not effective weight management strategies. Reinforcing those beliefs adds to the stigma in society and peoples internal blame that they feel they should be able to control their weight,’ he said.