A community station, Radio Apni Awaz, that broadcast for a 28-day period in Birmingham in April/May has been rapped by Ofcom for breaking impartiality rules during an election programmme.
A complainant alerted Ofcom to a programme that featured two local election candidates representing the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. The complainant considered that other candidates should also have been included in the programme.
The Licensee said The Politics Show was broadcast over a two week period and the Licensee said that it had call[ed] different candidates in daily between Monday and Friday. In particular,
this programme featured the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat candidates standing in Washwood Heath ward in Birmingham. The Licensee said that prior to the broadcast, it had contacted: the Conservative office at Birmingham City Council to gain a contact so that we could invite the candidate from this party. It added: We left our details with one of the secretaries to ask whether they could ask one of the councillors to ring us back but no one returned our call.
Ofcom noted that prior to the broadcast, the Licensee said it had contacted the Conservative office at Birmingham City Council to gain a contact so as to invite the Conservative Party candidate to take part in this programme. The Licensee added that it had: left [its] details with one of the secretaries to ask whether they could ask one of the councillors to ring [the Licensee] back but no-one returned [its] call. However, Ofcom considered that these steps taken by the Licensee could not reasonably be described as offering the Conservative Party candidate an opportunity to take part in the electoral area report or discussion in this case, as required by Rule 6.9 of the Code. In our view, the Licensee needed to make direct contact with the Conservative Party candidate or his representative and make them aware of the opportunity for them to take part in the programme in this case. This did not happen and therefore there was a breach of Rule 6.9.
Ofcom also noted the Licensee۪s representation that the audience was informed via announcements live on air of our schedule of programmes featuring candidates. However, the Licensee did not provide specific evidence to Ofcom as to the content of these announcements and when they were scheduled. Furthermore, and importantly, the Licensee did not clearly signal to the audience in the 6 May programme that it would be inviting other candidates contesting the Washwood Heath ward to take part in other, later programmes on the service. We therefore
considered that the audience would not have been aware that that an electoral area report or discussion was being split over more than one programme. Given all the above, we therefore concluded that due impartiality in this electoral area report or discussion was not strictly maintained and also recorded a breach of Rule 6.8 of the Code.