Three news channels rapped by Ofcom

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Three Asian news channels in the UK have been rapped by media regulator, Ofcom.

Aaj Tak, UK 44 and Channel I were found in breach for three individual reasons.

Aaj Tak was found in breach of news sponsorship in September and October last year. The broadcaster said, “The Licensee said that it did not consider the programme which followed the material was a current affairs programme and reiterated that the material was an advertisement and not a sponsorship credit.” Aaj Tak said that the use of the phrase “brought to you by” followed an industry practice in India. It continued that it regularly uses such phrases in advertisements around programming but “this is not meant to convey that the show is sponsored by or paid for by the advertiser”. Aaj Tak believed that “in order to be regarded as a sponsored programme, a product or service advertised for must feature in the editorial content which is not the case here”. Ofcom ruled the broadcaster was found in breach of COSTA rules.

Bengali service, Channel I was found in breach of a similar incident for an event feature during a news bulleyin broadcast in December last year. Ofcom accepts there may be editorial grounds to report on such events in the news. Ofcom also accept that, in some circumstances, references to event sponsors may be editorially justified in these reports. However, in our view, there was insufficient editorial justification for the frequency and prominence of the references to the event sponsors in this report.

Urdu news service, UK 44 was found in a similar situation after Ofcom found the channel in breach of a sponsorship breach during a news show in November last year. The channel told Ofcom that “the bulletin was produced by one of the channel’s less experienced reporters who, whilst briefed on the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, included more detail in the report than was editorially justified”. It said that “this was an oversight and in no way was [the report] intended to promote the garage”. The Licensee apologised and reiterated that there was no commercial relationship between it, as the producer and broadcaster of the programme, and the garage in question.

It also stressed the importance of broadcast compliance to the channel: “Prior to launching the channel, the News team and channel management attended a bespoke compliance workshop presented by [its] independent compliance consultant”. UK 44 continued that “the team understands the importance of maintaining the integrity of the news and includes experienced producers”.

Ofcom recognises that there may be legitimate editorial grounds for news programmes to feature stories about businesses. However, we considered that the emphasis and repeated focus on one company’s business on three occasions across two days was not editorially justified and was therefore unduly prominent. The promotional manner in which the workshop, services and staff were referred to – as set out above under Rule 9.4 – further contributed to the undue prominence. Our Decision is that the content was also in breach of Rule 9.5.

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