Ofcom has upheld a complaint over unfair treatment made against Sunrise Radio.
In its local news bulletin aired in September last year, an item was featured on the forthcoming elections to the ruling committee of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sikh Temple in Southall.
Mr Gurminder Singh Thind, the leader of an opposition group contesting the elections, raised questions about professional fees of 4 million that had been paid in connection with the building of the
Dr Garcha, the General Secretary of the Committee of the Gurdwara at the time of the broadcast, and other members of the Committee of the Gurdwara at the time complained that they had been treated unfairly in the broadcast.
Ofcom found that the item made serious allegations about the complainants and that, as a result, it was incumbent upon Sunrise Radio, in the interests of fairness, either to provide the complainants with an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond or to include information about the complainants۪ previous rebuttals to the allegations. Sunrise Radio۪s failure to do either, resulted in unfairness to Dr Garcha and the members of the Committee.
Sunrise Radio said the background to the programme was the Committee elections to the Gurdwara. The elections were of relevance and interest to the local Sikh community and Sunrise Radio had decided to cover them. Part of the public interest in the elections was the ongoing public debate over the building costs and the financial management of the Gurdwara building project.
Sunrise Radio explained that the elections for the Committee of the Gurdwara were scheduled for 5th October 2008 and its coverage would be ongoing, allowing all groups to air their manifestos. The coverage culminated on 3rd October 2008 with two news stories which included interviews with all the three groups standing.
While it was the station۪s intention to give equal coverage to all the groups standing for election, the news editor did not feel that each broadcast needed to reflect all perspectives.
Sunrise Radio explained that it did not set out to favour any group standing in the elections and believed that it did not do so.
In Ofcom۪s view, the clear inference arising from the broadcast was that the complainants had not managed the Gurdwara۪s finances properly. This was a serious allegation of wrongdoing or incompetence on the part of the Committee and was made more serious because of the sensitive time it was broadcast, namely the build up to the elections to the Committee of the Gurdwara. Ofcom noted that the item was broadcast with no other information to counter the allegations being included.
Ofcom also took into account Sunrise Radio۪s acknowledgment that the allegations had been raised before and were the subject of ongoing public debate; that this was a long running and difficult topic that had generated considerable interest and polarised views; and that the matter had been raised before and was being raised again because of its resonance in certain parts of the community.
Ofcom further added that Sunrise Radio did not take reasonable care to satisfy itself that material facts had not been disregarded or omitted in a way that was unfair to the complainants and that its failure to do so resulted in unfairness to the complainants.
Ofcom has directed Sunrise Radio to broadcast a summary of this finding.