The Sikh Channel has been pulled up by Ofcom for promotions during programming time.
The ‘Live: Herbal Medicine’ show aired in June 2022 was rapped for promotions of a guest throughout the programme.
The Sikh Channel responded by saying that its audience relies predominantly upon the spoken word and the Punjabi language with little regard for on screen text or information and that “the majority of its audience are elderly and wish to speak in Punjabi and directly to the expert guest”. Therefore, it argued that the contact details of the guest doctor were provided as a “cultural courtesy” and to assist viewers who were unable to speak to the doctor due to the limited time available for the live show. The broadcaster added that no monetary reward or discount was used by way of a “promotional tactic”, so it did not serve to increase the guest doctor’s brand, sales or to create brand loyalty.
The Sikh Channel said that it did not display or name any of the guest doctor’s products or invite viewers to purchase any of the products being discussed, highlighting that the presenter said that these products were available to purchase from “anywhere”.
Ofcom recognises broadcasters will wish to meet the cultural needs of their audiences. It also acknowledges the benefits of programmes that provide live interactive advice to viewers on matters that are of interest to them. The Code places no prohibition on these programmes in principle, but in accordance with Ofcom duties outlined in the Act, they must not serve to promote products or services.
The purpose of the relevant rules in Section Nine of the Code is to avoid the blurring of boundaries between programming and advertising. To fully achieve this purpose these rules must be applied consistently across all of Ofcom’s licensed television services. Therefore, Ofcom disagreed with the Licensee’s view that it fails to take a consistent approach when applying Rule 9.4 to community broadcasters.
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Ofcom recognised that viewers of this programme may experience difficulty when attempting to contact the studio directly due to time constraints but reminds the Sikh Channel that this does not exempt this content from the application of the rules in Section Nine of the Code.
In this case, the guest’s two business telephone numbers and web address, (which included the name of his business) remained on screen throughout the duration of the programme. Viewers were therefore made constantly aware of how they could benefit from contacting the guest outside the confines of the programme.
In addition, the presenter advised viewers that: i) the phone number of the guest was visible on screen; ii) that viewers could have a consultation with him; and iii) order “these supplements” that were being referred to in the programme.
In the course of this investigation The Sikh Channel has raised several issues in relation to Ofcom’s application of its rules to community broadcasters. It is Ofcom’s intention to invite the broadcaster to a meeting to discuss these matters further.