Multicultural community radio station EAVA FM (licence held by St Mathews Community Solution Centre Ltd) has been rapped by Ofcom for broadcasting what appeared to be three advertisements for Friends of Al Aqsa. Each item was broadcast only in commercial breaks, lasted 30 seconds.
Friends of Al Aqsa describes itself as ���a UK based non-profit making NGO concerned with defending the human rights of Palestinians and protecting the sacred al-Aqsa Sanctuary in Jerusalem�. Its aims include, ���putting pressure on the British government to make Israel respect International Law and human rights�, and ���mobilising international condemnation for Israel�۪s apartheid policies to be manifested through the boycott of Israel�. Visitors to Friends of Al Aqsa�۪s website are invited to join the organisation ���in opposing this brutal occupation and working to achieve a Free Palestine by getting involved with your local branch�.
We sought the Licensee�۪s confirmation of the terms under which the above items had been included in EAVA FM�۪s schedule. The Licensee informed us that it had broadcast none of the material in return for payment or other valuable consideration. As a result, Ofcom concluded that each item must be regarded as programme material, as opposed to advertising or a ���commercial reference� in radio programming, and was therefore subject to the Code.
The station said that it had an agreement with a third party for that organisation to broadcast programmes on EAVA FM in Ramadhan. The Licensee said it ���did not give [the third party] permission to broadcast these adverts or run campaigns during Ramadhan�. SMCSC added that it ���had no awareness of any such content being promoted by an additional party�, adding that it ���operated on a TRUST basis� (its emphasis). The Licensee said the agreement with the third party had been ���just [to] stick with in the Code of Practice and Ramadhan celebration programs�. SMCSC apologised, adding that it had trusted in ignorance an organisation that it had considered professional and more experienced in Ramadhan broadcasting than itself.
The right to broadcast comes with responsibilities. It is important that community radio broadcaster does not use its licensed service as a platform to give undue prominence in it programmes, taken as a whole, to the views and opinions of particular persons or bodies on matters of major political controversy and major matters relating to current public policy.
Ofcom has put SMCSC on notice that if similar compliance issues arise we may take further regulatory action, including consideration of the imposition of a statutory sanction.