Bringing you regular news of key developments in broadcasting regulation.
Fines for DM Digital Television Limited
Ofcom has imposed two fines on DM Digital totalling £105,000 for serious breaches of various Ofcom Broadcasting Code rules in relation to programmes broadcast in 2011. The larger of the fines (£85,000) related to a serious breach of Rule 3.1, which prohibits the broadcast of material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder. One of the programmes broadcast by DM Digital had featured remarks by an Islamic Pir (a religious scholar) that Ofcom considered, on a reasonable interpretation, personally advocated that all Muslims had a duty to attack or kill apostates or those perceived to have insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
Email hacking: “Canoe Man” and news items relating to Mr John Darwin and Mrs Anne Darwin, Sky News Channel, various broadcasts between July and December 2008
Ofcom has found that the obtaining and subsequent broadcast by BSkyB of material accessed by hacking into the email accounts of Mr John Darwin (who staged his own apparent death in a canoeing accident at sea in 2002) and his wife, Mrs Anne Darwin (who subsequently received approximately £250,000 through claims on insurance and pension policies), did not unwarrantably infringe their privacy. Both Mr and Mrs Darwin were convicted in 2008 of fraud-related offences. Ofcom held that BSkyB’s right to freedom of expression, in the exceptional circumstances of this case, outweighed Mr and Mrs Darwin’s expectation of privacy. Ofcom decided to investigate this case notwithstanding that it had not received a privacy complaint from Mr or Mrs Darwin. This was on the basis that unauthorised access to computer material is a criminal offence under section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and, in a statement issued in April 2012, Sky News had admitted that it had authorised a journalist to “access the email of individuals suspected of criminal activity”.
Privacy: 999: What’s Your Emergency? Channel 4, 22 October 2012
The privacy of the family of a man (now deceased) was infringed by the inclusion of a very brief image of him in his own home, being assessed by a paramedic, in a programme which follows the work of Blackpool’s emergency services. Ofcom found that the family’s privacy was unwarrantably infringed because the footage of the man, who was in a vulnerable state and in a sensitive situation which was private to him and his family, was broadcast without his, or his family’s, consent. Ofcom did not consider, in this instance, that the public interest in broadcasting the footage outweighed the family’s expectation of privacy.
Undue prominence: Countryfile, BBC One, 18 November and 9 December 2012
The BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has found that the wearing of “Rab”-branded clothing in two editions of Countryfile by two of the presenters amounted to undue prominence and gave the impression that the programmes were promoting or endorsing the clothing. It did not, however, amount to product placement (which is prohibited outright on the BBC’s licence-fee-funded channels).
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