Channel i breaks Ofcom impartiality rules

Raj Baddhan

Senior Editor


Channel i

Bengali entertainment service, Channel i has been rapped by Ofcom for breaking impartiality rules in January this year.

A complainant drew Ofcom�۪s attention to broadcast material that appeared to be an advertisement for the Bangladesh Awami League, the party that currently governs Bangladesh. The item was 20 seconds in duration with a prominent caption stating ���Community Announcement�۝ (in English) shown throughout the broadcast.

The item comprised a large photograph of Abdul Mannan, who had just been elected as an MP and State Minister of Finance in Bangladesh, and four small images of individuals including prominent members of the UK Awami League, together with on-screen text and a voice-over, of which Ofcom commissioned an independent translation.

The broadcaster did not think the breach was applicable as the message did ���a generic community announcement�۝ that contained no ���reference to any political party or political message that can be contradicted…�۝. However, the broadcaster added that, ���as a small community channel�۝, it took ���all necessary measures to stick to Ofcom rules�۝, and would ���not broadcast such clip to avoid any further complaints.�۝

Ofcom considered that the broadcast material in this instance served as a self standing expression of a specific viewpoint ��� that of the Awami League ��� in relation to a matter of political controversy ��� i.e. the recent election in Bangladesh that was boycotted by a number of opposition parties. The effect of this content was compounded by the fact that the mat
erial was broadcast on 22 occasions over a four day period following that election (in January 2014). Further, the item did not contain any alternative view that could reasonably and adequately be classed as critical of, or counter to, the election that led to a Bangladesh Awami League Government. Neither did the Licensee, in its response, identify any comparable material broadcast on Channel i that had contained any opposing or alternative position in relation to that election.

Ofcom said it reaching the decision, it noted that the broadcast material was clearly described on – screen as a ���Community Announcement�۝ and it took account of the Licensee�۪s
explanation that it was ���something related to [the UK Bangladeshi] community and in their interest�۝. Ofcom recognises that broadcasters serving particular communities will want to provide content that presents issues of topical interest to their target audience. In Ofcom�۪s view, however, this cannot justify the inclusion of inherently partial material on a matter of political controversy in Bangladesh.