Hum Masala UK rapped by Ofcom for product placement in PSL 2019

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Hum Masala UK has had its first official rap by Ofcom after a complaint was received for its Pakistan Super League (PSL 2019) coverage in March.

The complainant alerted Ofcom to a large screen to the right of the presenter which was clearly visible to viewers during studio discussion and analysis before, during and after the match. The screen displayed a repeated sequence of logos for nine products or services.

Hum Masala said that the PSL is a major event broadcast to cricket supporting countries globally and that all international broadcasters receive the same live feed of the event. It added that Hum Network’s agreement with the Pakistani Cricket Board, through an authorised third party, was to provide the international broadcast feed to the UK.

Hum Network referenced Ofcom’s decision on Sky Sport’s live coverage of the Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore, which was published by Ofcom previously. It said that it understood from this decision that Ofcom had given broadcasters a degree of leeway with live feeds of sporting events and it was aware that commercial brands would be part of the broadcast when entering into an agreement to acquire the rights to broadcast the PSL tournament.

Hum Network said that having been made aware of Ofcom’s concerns about undue prominence in live feeds of sports events, it would take the opportunity to discuss its relationship with the PSL management and the possibility of delivering an international feed without the inclusions of the brands in the studio.

In response, Ofcom said its Guidance explains that the exposure a commercial reference receives needs to be considered against the editorial requirements of the programme. As reflected in the F1 Decision, we recognise that industry developments over the years have changed the way in which televised sport reaches viewers. For some sports, individual broadcasters may film and transmit their own coverage. For others, such as PSL, content is provided by a third party.

As also acknowledged in the F1 Decision, Ofcom recognises the challenges faced by broadcasters when transmitting a live third-party feed of a sports event. However, these challenges do not absolve an Ofcom licensee of its responsibilities to ensure that the content it transmits complies with the Code. In terms of the extent to which commercial references can feature in content, it is important that a broadcaster carefully balances the interests of viewers with the need to maintain a clear distinction between advertising and editorial content.

This programme contained three studio discussion segments with a total duration of approximately 35 minutes. Although this content also comprised shots of the studio participants and footage of the current and previous matches, a screen in the studio showing a repeated sequence of products and services that had no editorial relevance featured heavily throughout these programme segments. Further, there were several occasions when the display (and consequently, the branding appearing on it) occupied a large portion of the screen. Therefore, even when taking into account the overall programme duration, Ofcom did not accept that the commercial references were negligible.

The channel was found in breach of Rule 9.5.

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