Broadcasting Regulation Newsletter

July 1, 2013
Broadcasting Regulation Newsletter

June 2013

Bringing you regular news of key developments in broadcasting regulation.


Fines for two “psychic” channels

Ofcom has imposed fines on two broadcasters for serious and repeated breaches of the BCAP Code in relation to claims in programmes that psychics were able to make accurate and precise readings. The broadcasters failed to make clear that the programmes were for entertainment purposes only. The breaches on both channels were the same, and related to the same content: one broadcaster had simulcast the programmes broadcast by the other. One programme included what Ofcom described as promotional “name dropping” by a psychic on the accuracy of readings that she had allegedly made to an acquaintance involving Michael Jackson. In another programme, it was implied that a psychic could provide accurate readings on the basis of the psychic’s experience of working “very closely with … several police constabularies”, and that she was “the one that dealt with” the Milly Dowler case.

Ofcom’s sanctions adjudications

Fine for inappropriately scheduled music video

“Scuzz TV” has been fined £10,000 for broadcasting a music video by the American “rap rock” band, Hollywood Undead, 20 minutes before the 9.00 p.m. watershed during the school summer holidays. Ofcom considered the video to be “extremely unsuitable for children”. It contained frequently repeated use of offensive language, close-up nudity, and depictions of what appeared to be illegal drug paraphernalia and illegal drug consumption. Ofcom found the broadcaster in breach because of the “likelihood of children being available to view the material at this time”, even though the BARB viewer data indicated that no children were in fact watching the broadcast of the video in question.

Ofcom’s sanctions adjudication

Sponsorship of Crufts 2013 by Adaptil: More4, 7 to 10 March 2013

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code was breached by sponsorship credits around Crufts 2013 programmes for Adaptil (a diffuser which releases a synthetic pheromone that is similar to the natural pheromone released by a mother dog to her puppies). The purpose of the sponsor’s product was unclear, and it would have been perfectly legitimate to provide a brief description of the product to identify it to the audience. Statements were made by a “Puppy Training Expert” to the effect that Adaptil could help a puppy “develop into a well-adjusted adult dog” and “settle” into a new home. These went too far, were unduly promotional and effectively encouraged the purchase of Adaptil. This is not permitted in sponsorship credits, which must be distinct from advertising.

Ofcom’s finding

Privacy: complaints by Ms McArdle and Mrs Millington, Dispatches: Undercover Hospital, Channel 4, 11 April 2011

Ofcom has partially upheld complaints from two nurses who were secretly filmed in the Medical Assessment Unit of the North Manchester General Hospital, where they worked. The secret filming had been carried out to find out what impact cuts to the NHS were having on staff and patients. After the programme was broadcast, disciplinary action was taken against one of the nurses, She was then suspended from her job for the comments that she had made in the programme, and she subsequently resigned from her position. The other nurse was suspended from her position and dismissed, but successfully claimed for unfair dismissal and was reinstated in her original position. Finding that the privacy of both nurses had been unwarrantably infringed in the broadcast of the programme, Ofcom noted that broadcasters should carefully consider the possible adverse repercussions for individuals that could result from broadcasting footage of them without their consent, especially those who were not in any way suspected of wrongdoing or criminal behaviour.

Ofcom’s finding

Sky’s refusal to carry advertising for BT sport channels discriminatory, but not unduly so

Ofcom has found that, in refusing to carry advertising for the BT sport channels, Sky is discriminating against BT, but that such discrimination is not undue. In Ofcom’s view, Sky is pursuing legitimate commercial aims to protect its brand identity and revenue in relation to its own sports channels. Further, the risks to Sky’s brand and revenue from carrying advertising for ESPN (as it does) are lower than the risks of carrying advertising for the BT sport channels, mainly because of Sky’s commercial/contractual relationship with ESPN. Ofcom found that the effects of the discrimination on BT were limited, since advertising airtime on other channels that could provide the impact sought by BT was available. So Sky’s approach was considered proportionate to its legitimate aim.

Ofcom’s decision


References to Skype in BBC news and factual output

The BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has not upheld a complaint that references to Skype in the BBC’s news and factual output were unduly prominent. The use of the word “Skype” as a metonym for an internet call was not inaccurate, and appropriately limited references to “Skype” within programmes for the purpose of informing members of the public how to contact the BBC were editorially justified and did not amount to promotion or endorsement.

Editorial Standards Finding

For further information please contact:

Eleanor Steyn

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