The health supplements brand will receive exclusive branding and advertising across Australia Plus online platforms, digital and social media channels, and TV service

ABC International, a division of the ABC responsible for the broadcaster’s international outlets, has announced it has taken on its first partners to support the expansion of its online media service Australia Plus.

These partners are Monash University, the Victorian State government and Swisse Wellness, which it refers to in its press release as “Australia’s leading natural health brand”.

Australia Plus Foundation Partners receive exclusive branding and advertising opportunities across all Australia Plus online platforms, digital and social media channels and Australia Plus TV, as well as through regional partners including Beijing TV and Singapore’s Mediacorp.

Swisse chief executive Radek Sali said, “Our mission at Swisse is to make people around the world healthier and happier, and through this exciting partnership we will be able to take our message to a number of new regions and audiences.”

“It also gives us the opportunity to learn more about our different consumers’ needs, so as we launch into new countries we tailor our approach to suit,” said Sali.

However the agreement has attracted the ire of a leading academic.

Dr Ken Harvey, Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University’s School of Public Health and outspoken critic of CMs, says the ABC’s move to partner with Swisse is surprising.

“I am disappointed that Swisse has been added to the mix. Swisse have had many upheld complaints for misusing scientific claims such as “clinically proven” and “clinically tested”,” Dr Harvey told AJP.

“In 2013-4 Swisse sought a research partnership with a number of Australian universities; all but one resisted on the grounds that, while such an association might give Swisse a fig-leaf of respectability, it would not reflect well on the reputation of the university involved,” he pointed out.

Monash was one of the universities that turned the company down.

“I have been told that the partnership between ABC International and Monash and was struck late last year, before any involvement of Swisse Wellness,” says Dr Harvey.

When asked about its decision to partner with Swisse, the ABC responded saying that the partnership would not affect its content.

“All Australia Plus content is subject to the established and rigorous requirements of the [ABC’s] Editorial Policies,” an ABC spokesperson told AJP.

“The commercial partnerships will in no way undermine the ABC’s commitment to these policies.”

Meanwhile, ABC’s show The Checkout is in the throes of a defamation case brought before the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2013 by Sali’s father Avni Sali, who is the director of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine.

Court documents reveal that Sali is claiming damages from the show, saying it made incorrect claims about the institute’s clinical testing of Swisse products.

Dr Ken Harvey would like to point out that his appointment as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University is unpaid, his substantial involvement with students and staff is done pro bono, and his views regarding Swisse and their partnership with ABC International are his own and do not reflect the views of Monash University.