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Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 105 - 31|03|08

Midsomer Murders, The Jon Gaunt Show, The Brit Awards 2008, “Films to Die For” Promotional Trailer, Fizz Music, Complaint by Mrs Amanda Kenton, Complaint by Mr Paul Rouse on his own behalf and on behalf of the Association of Second Home Owners, Complaint by Mr John Byrant, Complaint by Mr Paul Manning & Complaint by Thomas Cook UK Limited brought on their behalf by CMS Cameron McKenna solicitors.

Standards Cases

In Breach

Midsomer Murders
ITV1, 8 November 2007, 16:00

Introduction

Midsomer Murders is a long-running detective series set in the fictional idyll of the English countryside. These two-hour dramas are produced for an evening slot between 20:00 and 21:00 and are then repeated during the daytime.

This episode was the second part of the story: The Electric Vendetta. A viewer was concerned about the violent images in the re-cap of the previous episode at the start of this episode, and other violent scenes during it; including burnt dead bodies, electrocutions and a car crash in which a man was thrown violently through a windscreen. A viewer complained that this material was unsuitable for any children who could be watching television at this time of the afternoon.

Ofcom wrote to Channel Television, who comply this series on behalf of ITV1, for its comments in relation to Rule 1.3 (children must be protected by appropriate scheduling) and Rule 1.11 (violence must be appropriately limited if shown before the watershed) of the Code.

Response

Channel Television stated that this episode had previously been shown in the same format on 3 May 2007 at 14:05 , when Ofcom had not received any complaints.

The broadcaster explained that the two reprises of the electrocution (once in the re-cap at the start and once towards the end of the episode) were both solitary shots of the electrocution, which were brief, in long shot and with no detail shown. The more extended flashback also showed a couple of long shots of the car and a body with smoke around it in the aftermath of the murder. Although the method of murder employed may have been novel, Channel did not believe that it was explicit or gruesome. When considering this episode for daytime showing, Channel ensured that the scenes involving the electrocution were shortened and made less explicit.

In Channel’s view, the brief sequence of a man being pushed down the stairs to his death involved no unpleasant detail. At the end of the episode, there was a car chase and the man pursued collided with a combine harvester. He was thrown through the windscreen and killed. The broadcaster said that there were only two brief shots of his dead body with some blood on his face.

Channel Television stated that it had been the compliance licensee for Midsomer Murders since 2000. Around 2005, ITV had decided to repeat the series in daytime. It was now in its eleventh series. Everything intended for repeat was reviewed and any necessary edits carried out to make it suitable for its transmission time. In the light of Ofcom expressing its concerns about the amount of violence in soaps in 2007[(-1-)] and an earlier decision about Midsomer Murders in Bulletin 93, Channel reviewed the criteria for establishing its suitability for daytime slots and, as part of that process, a small number of episodes had been put aside for further consideration, and a number were edited again as “a matter of prudence”.

In the broadcaster’s view, all necessary steps had been taken to ensure that this series would be suitable for daytime repeats. It accepted that it was a question of judgement whether this had been achieved, but taking together the low level of complaint with the relatively high viewing figures, Channel believed it was meeting the expectations of the audience.

Decision

Rule 1.11 states that “Violence, its after-effects and the depictions of violence, whether verbal or physical, must be appropriately limited in programmes broadcast before the watershed and must also be justified by the context.” In Bulletin 93, Ofcom upheld complaints about two separate episodes of Midsomer Murders shown at 16:00 on ITV1 on weekdays. On that occasion, the episodes were in breach of the Code for both violence and offensive language. Ofcom reminded the broadcaster that care should be taken on making sure that material made for an evening slot should be suitably edited for any daytime repeats.

Rule 1.3 requires children to be protected from unsuitable content by appropriate scheduling. We recognise that Channel has taken care to ensure that episodes of this series are suitable for afternoon repeats. This episode was first repeated at 14:00 on a weekday before being shown on this occasion at 16:00 . Although the 16:00 repeats of this series attract a low child audience – it ranged between 25,000 to 59,000 children for this run of repeats – overall, there is general acknowledgement that a larger child audience is available to view at 16:00 than at 14:00 . The total child audience available to watch all channels at 14:00 is 650,000, but this rises to 1.4 million children at 16:00 . This means that the total number of children available to view at 16:00 is over double the amount available to watch television at 14:00 . This puts a greater responsibility on broadcasters to make sure material is suitable at this later time of the afternoon, as they must decide before a programme is broadcast whether it has been scheduled appropriately.

Given that the first episode had shown five scenes of dead bodies with burnt hands examined in the crop circles and the morgue, as well as the murder by electrocution and the finding of the electrocuted body in the car, it is questionable whether this two-part drama as a whole was suitable for transmission at 16:00. However in the second episode there was a concentration of violent images in the recap, which showed a body with a severely burnt hand, an electrocution of a man in his car showing smoke emanating from the body and a couple finding a burnt hand in a field. Added to this, during the second part there was a longer sequence showing how the electrocution had been carried out, which again showed the moment of electrocution with smoke rising, and a car crash at the end with the body thrown through the windscreen and two shots of the man’s bloody face.

Whilst acknowledging that Channel had sought to make this episode suitable for an afternoon transmission, there were a relatively large number of violent images that when taken together made it inappropriate for a 16:00 slot, when a significant number of children are available to view. On this basis, Ofcom concluded that the episode was in breach of Rules 1.3 and 1.11.

Breach of Rules 1.3 and 1.11

Footnotes:

1.- See Note to Broadcasters, “Violence in soaps and Rule 1.11”, Broadcast Bulletin 83, 23 April 2007


The Jon Gaunt Show
talkSPORT (National), 11 February 2008, 10:00

Introduction

The programme comprises phone-in led discussions on current affairs issues. In this edition, for example, the programme discussion featured issues on drug cheats in sport, the Taliban and the appropriate punishment for mutiny. During the discussion, the presenter promoted the website, GoToMyPC, which allows computer users to access their office desktop (such as files, emails, programs and network) remotely. He promoted a 30 day free trial by telling listeners to: “…visit GoToMyPC.co.uk, click the try it free button and use promo code, talkSPORT.”

Ofcom was concerned by this promotion, particularly as it appeared unclear whether the presenter was broadcasting an advertisement or promoting the website and its free trial in programming. We therefore asked the broadcaster to clarify whether the material broadcast was programming or advertising and sought its comments under Section 10 of the Code – in particular:

  • Rule 10.2, which states: “Broadcasters must ensure that the advertising and programme elements of a service are kept separate”; or
  • Rule 10.3, which states: “Products and services must not be promoted in programmes…”.

Response

talkSPORT confirmed that the output was a presenter-read advertisement and provided a copy of the script, the content of which had been approved for broadcast by the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC).

The broadcaster therefore addressed Rule 10.2 of the Code, claiming that “there was significant separation from editorial due to the clarity and nature of [the] advertising message within the environment that it was placed.” It added that the programme was a “hard-hitting phone-in led environment that carries no sponsor led features or consumer advice slots. Thus the soft issues of business PC management and/or services do not relate to the editorial nature of the show.” talkSPORT provided a running order for the show, which featured “Gotomypc read” as the penultimate item, ending shortly before an “Ad break”.

Decision

The clear separation of programming and advertising, as required by Rule 10.2, is one of the basic principles of UK commercial broadcasting. To ensure that the two elements are distinguishable from one another, radio advertisements that have a similar style to the programming in which they are placed should generally be separated by other material, such as a jingle or station ident. Alternatively, they can be placed in the middle of an advertising break. Whatever method is used, listeners should not be left confused about what they are listening to.

This presenter-read advertisement may have contained material that was not generally of the type discussed in the programme. Nevertheless, the seamless way in which the presenter flowed from one topic into the GoToMyPC promotion and out again, with only a brief time check, did not provide - in Ofcom’s view - sufficient separation for listeners to realise that a stand-alone advertisement was taking place. The presenter continued to speak in his relaxed, conversational style, the promotion of GoToMyPC contained a clear reference to the station brand and a clear and pre-recorded advertising break took place around only 90 seconds later, all of which created the impression that the advertisement was in fact editorial. This was in breach of Rule 10.2 of the Code.

Breach of Rule 10.2


Not in Breach

The Brit Awards 2008
ITV1, 20 February 2008, 20:00

Introduction

The Brits is an annual music awards ceremony broadcast on ITV1. A total of 128 viewers raised concerns about bad language and the portrayal of the use of alcohol in the ceremony. Particular reference was made to an incident in which presenter Sharon Osbourne swore at Vic Reeves for his drunken behaviour.

Decision

The Brits is an established pop music awards ceremony with a reputation for controversy.

Ofcom noted that, although this show is aimed at a mixed audience rather than children specifically, it was aired during half-term for many schools. However, over the years it has not attracted large numbers of the youngest viewers. As with previous years, this year’s coverage was also scheduled later in the evening, bridging the 21:00 watershed.

The incident between Sharon Osbourne and Vic Reeves, which many viewers highlighted, occurred around 21:35 . During the presentation of an award, which Vic Reeves was having some difficulty announcing, Sharon Osbourne turned to him and said: “Get on with it, you pisshead”, and shortly afterwards, “Shut up you’re pissed, piss off! Piss off you bastard. . .  piss off”.

While we understand that this language may have been offensive to some viewers, it was broadcast after the watershed and in a programme with a particular reputation. We believe that regular viewers would have been aware of the likelihood of this kind of material. Further, Ofcom research indicates that the examples of language quoted are generally considered quite mild [(-2-)].

As to the portrayal of the use of alcohol in the ceremony, Ofcom considered that this was limited and incidental to the coverage. In the context of a live awards ceremony, such images of guests celebrating as were broadcast, were editorially justified. In Ofcom’s view, the programme did not condone or glamorise alcohol misuse. The effect of these images was more likely to be cautionary than attractive.

Footnotes:

2.-Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: a contextual investigation Ofcom September 2005

Not in breach


Resolved

“Films to Die For” Promotional Trailer
Virgin 1, January 2008, various dates and various times during daytime

Introduction

Through early January 2008, Virgin 1 broadcast a promotional trailer for forthcoming films to be screened on the channel. The promotion featured clips from films including Platoon, Rob Roy, Robocop 3 and Road House. The images in the trailer focussed on characters’ faces as they met violent deaths. Ofcom received five complaints about this trailer from viewers concerned by the broadcast of scenes of violence during the daytime when they expected the output to be suitable for family viewing.

Ofcom asked Virgin to comment with reference to Rules 1.3 (children must be protected by appropriate scheduling) and 1.11 of the Code (violence must be appropriately limited in programmes before the watershed).

Response

Virgin replied by stating that a decision was initially made to restrict this promotion to times when children were unlikely to be viewing the channel, based on audience viewing figures. It also argued that Virgin 1 is targetted at adult men and is not specifically aimed at children or families, and that the images shown would be familiar to their audience as they were taken from well known and popular films. With regards to the inclusion of the violent scenes of death, the channel said that:

“…we initially considered that the rapid juxtaposition of such a variety of slo-mo shots across a wide range of genres…clearly places the scenes in another world and time. We believed the effect of this would be to help viewers distance the shots from any sense of reality.”

However, after the channel was contacted by Ofcom to request a recording of the broadcast and were notified about the nature of the complaints, Virgin took the decision to permit transmission of the trailer only after 21:00.

Decision

The Code does not prevent material featuring violence from being broadcast in promotional trailers before the 21:00 watershed. Broadcasters must however ensure that the content of such promotions is suitable for the time of transmission and complies fully with the Code.

Rule 1.11 of the Code requires broadcasters to ensure that violence be appropriately limited in pre-watershed programming and be justified by the context. We had concerns regarding the suitability of this trailer for broadcast during daytime because the clips depicted violent death and serious injury at close quarters and was shown quite frequently in daytime schedules without any prior warning.

However, we note the broadcaster’s swift action in restricting the promotion to post- watershed broadcast only. Therefore, we consider that the matter is resolved. /p>

Resolved/p>


Fizz Music
Fizz, 31 January 2008, 15:20

Introduction

>A viewer objected to the appearance of the word “cunt” displayed on screen in a text submitted to this interactive pop music channel by a viewer. The complete text was: Am fae stevenston every cunt fae parisley is idiots come the gers”. The complainant believed broadcast of this offensive language was inappropriate for this time of day when young viewers might have been watching.

We asked Fizz for a recording to assess this content.

Response

In reply Fizz explained that broadcast of this offensive word was not because of human error. The person moderating the texts at that time was an experienced supervisor. The problem was caused by a ‘screen refresh’ while two people were using the system for training, which resulted in the text being passed for sending to air unedited.

Fizz apologised to anyone who may have been offended by this error. It assured Ofcom that it has now improved its technical systems to avoid a recurrence of this problem.

Decision

Section 1.14 of the Code requires that “The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed”. Research into swearing carried out by Ofcom indicates that the word complained of is amongst those considered the most offensive, and therefore this language should not have been broadcast by Fizz before the watershed.

However, Ofcom noted the broadcaster’s apology, that the error resulted from an unforeseen technical error and that Fizz has taken steps to ensure this problem does not recur. We therefore consider the matter resolved.

Resolved


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