Geo TV has landed in hot water with Ofcom for its “excessive” amount of commercial branding in gameshow ‘Geo Khelo Pakistan’ in May 2017.
Ofcom received a complaint that this programme featured excessive commercial branding. As the programme was in Urdu (with some English), we commissioned an independent translation of the content, which the Licensee reviewed and accepted. Prior to its broadcast in the UK, the programme had been edited to obscure many visual and verbal references to products, services and trade marks, using techniques such as blurring images and bleeping out sounds. However, references to the brands BMW, Sting, Q Mobile and Jazz remained present in the programme.
Geo TV explained that its content is produced in Pakistan, under a different regulatory regime than in the UK. It stated: “Geo TV takes its Ofcom duties extremely seriously and edits material to ensure compliance with all Ofcom codes and regulations. At times, this can be challenging and unfortunately on occasions errors occur but they are never deliberate”.
The Licensee stressed that Geo Khelo Pakistan is a gameshow, which “[a]s with many gameshows in Asia and in Europe…contains brand references to prizes”, adding that the editorial remit of such programmes allows for a greater amount of prominence to be given to these references. However, Geo TV also recognised that there are limits to how much prominence is permitted.
Geo TV said a decision was taken to edit this programme prior to broadcast in the UK to ensure it was compliant, and that “certain brands [were] blurred and words (and, in fact, whole sentences) [were] bleeped – all with the aim of limiting any undue prominence and
preventing any undue promotion”.
Geo TV said that on this occasion its compliance team had had to edit the programme in four hours. It acknowledged: “On review, we are aware that some of the bleeping was not as effective as it might have been. As a result, unfortunately, some of the words that should have been edited may have been heard by the UK audience”. It added that in future it would delay the broadcast of such programmes by 24 hours to allow adequate time to edit them.
In summary, the Licensee argued that the references to BMW, Q Mobile and Jazz were compliant with the Code. It accepted that there were potential issues with the references to Sting, but requested that Ofcom deal with the matter in a proportionate way.
Ofcom recognised that Geo TV had attempted to edit this programme to make it compliant for broadcast in the UK. However, as acknowledged by the Licensee, the editing was inadequate in several respects. Ofcom welcomed the Licensee’s commitment to allot more time to this process in future. Nevertheless, Ofcom’s Decision is that the material broadcast on this occasion was in breach of the following Code: Rules 9.4, 9.5, 9.9 and 9.10.