STAR Plus & ARY get telling off by Ofcom

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Media regulator Ofcom today published its latest Broadcasting Bulletin outlining two viewer complaints over a programme shown on STAR Plus and the other on the now deceased ARY One World.

Kaun Banega Crorepati
STAR Plus, 22 January 2007 (plus other dates) 21:00

A viewer in the UK expressed concerns that ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ appeared to contain product placement by the computer firm, Compaq. The viewer said that the gameshow host repeatedly referred to Compaq.

Rule 10.4 of the Ofcom Code provides that no undue prominence may be given in any programme to a product or service.

Rule 10.5 prohibits product placement. However, the Code states that product placement does not include:

“Television arrangements covering the inclusion of products or services in a programme acquired from outside the UK and films made for cinema provided that no broadcaster regulated by Ofcom and involved in the broadcast of that programme or film directly benefits from the arrangement”.

STAR Plus response

STAR Group responded on behalf of the Ofcom licensee, STAR Television Entertainment Ltd. It advised that the programme was acquired from outside the UK and that STAR Television Entertainment Ltd did not directly benefit from any placement arrangement. It acknowledged that Compaq�۪s red logo was at times visible on the back of the computers although it said that there were no direct close ups on the logo.

It also said that during the show the host addressed the computers on a few occasions with expressions such as “Is that correct, Mr Computer?”, “Compaq da”, or “Compaq guru”, an Indian local dialect expression.

STAR Group considered that the computers were a necessary part of the show and served as a technical tool which allowed both the host and the contestants to view the questions being asked, provide possible answers and then display the correct answer. It added that Compaq had no input into editorial decisions regarding the broadcast of the show in the UK.

The series in question ended in April 2007; however, STAR Group said that, going forward, it would endeavour to comply with Rule 10.4.

Ofcom decision: Breach of Rule 10.4

Bearing in mind the definition of product placement under the Code, Ofcom did not consider that there was a breach of Rule 10.5. However, programmes acquired from outside the UK are nevertheless subject to Rule 10.4, which prohibits unduly prominent references to products and services.

Ofcom noted that the game show host used a range of expressions in addressing the computers used in the programme. Some of these expressions included the brand name, Compaq. However, this was part of the host�۪s light-hearted patter, which was integral to the show.

Ofcom considered that it would have been difficult to have
edited the host�۪s verbal references from the UK broadcast and that, on balance, these references in themselves were not unduly prominent. However, if they were to become more frequent or otherwise prominent within the programme, then this could raise problems under Rule 10.4.

In addition to the host�۪s verbal references, the computers themselves featured branding for Compaq in clearly legible red lettering when shown in close up with the presenter and contestant. The branding appeared to have been deliberately positioned on the computers to ensure its visibility on-screen. Ofcom considered that there was insufficient editorial justification for inclusion of the branding and that it could have been edited out from the UK broadcast (for example, using blurring techniques) without compromising the editorial content. Whilst Ofcom welcomed the assurances from STAR Group regarding compliance going forward, it concluded that the visual references to Compaq in the series in question were unduly prominent.

Sponsorship of ARY One World News
ARY One World, various dates and times

Ofcom was contacted by a viewer who said that news on ARY One World appeared to be sponsored.

Ofcom rule 9.1 of the Code prohibits the sponsorship of news and current affairs on television.

Ofcom obtained a recording of sample output transmitted in February 2007. Ofcom noted that there was a sponsorship credit for the news which announced in English, “This news detail was brought to you by Mobile Zone and Sony Ericsson�۝. Subsequently, there was another sponsorship credit for the news; the voiceover said, “This news headline is brought to you by Super Asia Microwave Oven”. Ofcom requested the broadcaster�۪s comments.

ARY One World response

ARY One World said that, at the time that Ofcom reviewed the output, ARY One World was “a live and single beam channel” involving a “turn-around” of its South Asian signal. In other words, what was broadcast in the UK was precisely the same output as that being broadcast at the same time to audiences in South Asia and elsewhere.

The broadcaster said that, in other parts of the world where the output was transmitted, there were no regulations prohibiting the sponsorship of news. The broadcaster went on to say that it was “technically extremely complicated to remove branding and sponsorship messages before turn-around without delay”, and that to do this required a “sophisticated infrastructure”. It initially claimed that it had made arrangements for a “clean beam” in order to fully comply with Ofcom�۪s regulations, and envisaged that the new infrastructure would shortly be in place.

However, the broadcaster subsequently advised Ofcom that these arrangements had turned out to be not “technically feasible” and that the channel had therefore ceased to operate with effect from 23rd July 2007.

Ofcom decision: Breach of Rule 9.1

European legislation prohibits television news and current affairs programmes from being sponsored. The Code, which broadcasters licensed in the UK are required to comply with, therefore prohibits sponsorship of news and current affairs on television.

News broadcast on ARY One World included clear sponsorship messages and was therefore in breach of Rule 9.1.

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