Akaal Channel has been rapped by Ofcom for blatant commercial references during programming time.
Ofcom received a complaint about Advice Bureau, a health programme, broadcast mainly in Punjabi in May 2017. Ofcom commissioned an independent translation of both programmes translated into English and provided a copy of the translation to the Licensee, which agreed it was accurate.
Ofcom requested information from the licensee about any commercial arrangements associated with the references to the services offered by Dr Wali. Based on the information provided, Ofcom considered the material raised issues under product placement codes.
Akaal Channel said that some viewers would not be comfortable discussing certain health related issues on live television and “the decision taken was to provide viewers with the option to contact [Dr Wali] directly”. ACL added that staff also recorded the phone numbers of all callers to the programmes so that Dr Wali could conduct follow-up consultations if necessary, adding that “we view this as a ‘two-way street’”.
It said “[w]e note that other magazine style programming providing health and welfare advice often ask callers to stay on the line off-air or that they will be called back after the programme has ended. In adopting this approach, the channel is in line with many other programme formats from major broadcasters. The style of this programme may not be as slick [as] that of the mainstream in the application how it has conveyed off-air follow up with the viewer. However, the intention is to demonstrate, care and attention to…viewers, particularly those that are seeking advice”.
Ofcom recognises that the provision of aftercare following the broadcast of a programme of this nature may be necessary and demonstrates a responsible approach to compliance and audience welfare. However, this does not justify references to contact details or the availability of products or services for a commercial entity in a programme.
The references in Advice Bureau to Care & Cure Nutraceuticals were therefore given undue prominence, in breach of Rule 9.5 of the Code.