Iqra Bangla has landed in hot water with Ofcom for promoting a Hajj tour during its show ‘Journey For Iqra’ on 28th March 2019.
Ofom noted that during advertising breaks around the programme, advertisements for the tour were broadcast, which included similar information as within the programme.
The broadcaster said that it did not have any commercial interest in broadcasting the programme, which it said was a live Islamic religious and educational programme focusing on “Umrah Hajj”. The intention of the programme, it said, was to educate, inform and encourage Muslims who were keen to perform “Umrah Hajj as a ritual”. It explained that it invited an experienced guest to speak about the “challenge and opportunity during Umrah Hajj in Makkah and Madina”.
Iqra Bangla added that it is committed to ensuring that editorial content is distinct from advertising but that the nature of the programme required “specific information including available packages and offers” and that, without this information “the holy journey or the entire tour would be incomplete”. It said it had “placed the advertisement of the package offers during the show as information rather than promotion”.
It said that prior to the programme, it asked “a number of relevant tour operators to share their packages” so that its viewers could have “an informed choice if they decide[d] to rely on tour operators”. It said that the programme may have seemed to give undue prominence to a product/service but this was because it “had to go for a particular package/offer because other operators did not respond despite its repeated requests. The advertising breaks within the programme contained advertisements for the tour package that was discussed in the programme: the reason was to inform its audience about the packages available.”
As reflected above, Ofcom recognises that there may be legitimate editorial grounds for programmes to include references to the way in which viewers can undertake Umrah. In this case, although there were references to what could be expected when participating on a pilgrimage, the focus of the programme was the specific tour. Ofcom’s decision is that the focus on the tour and its features was not justified on editorial grounds and the programme was also in breach of Rule 9.5 of the Code.