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Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 111 - 09|06|08

The Best of Orange Playlist - 2007 Best Guests, Ocean FM,Trailer for I huvudet på Gynning, The Simpsons, Dispatches: The Court of Ken, Channel S Global Limited and Mr Mahee Ferdahus,, Complaints by Mr Matthew Butler, Mr Anthony Bennett, Ms Linda Ware brought on her behalf by Mr Jan Frayne, Mr Meirion Bowen brought on his behalf by Mr Jan Frayne, Mr and Mrs R, Professor John Bridle brought on his behalf by Fisher Scoggins LLP & Cwyn gan Mr Meirion Bowen a gyflwynwyd ar ei ran gan Mr Jan Frayne

Standards Cases

Notice of Sanction

MTV Networks Europe,
Ultimate 50 Videos (TMF), 24 June 2006
Trailer for Totally Jodie Marsh (TMF), 24 July 2007
Belge Chat (MTV France), 24 December 2006
Totally Boyband (MTV UK), 25 September 2006 and 23 October 2006
Never Before Scene (MTV UK), 14 September 2007
Mr Know-it-All (MTV Hits), 22 January 2007
Totally Scott-Lee (MTV Hits), 15 August 2007

Introduction

On 4 June 2008, Ofcom published its decision to impose a statutory sanction on MTV Networks Europe (“MTV Networks”), in respect of four channels owned and operated by MTV Networks, for seriously and repeatedly failing to ensure compliance with the Code. TMF, MTV France, MTV UK and MTV Hits are music video and general entertainment channels (“the Channels”). They were found in breach of the following Code Rules:

  • 1.3 (appropriate scheduling to protect children) - TMF, MTV UK and MTV Hits;
  • 1.4 (broadcasters must observe the watershed) - TMF and MTV UK ;
  • 1.14 (most offensive language not to be broadcast before the watershed) -TMF, MTV UK and MTV Hits;
  • 2.3 (material that may cause offence must be justified by context) – MTV France, MTV UK and MTV Hits; and
  • Condition 11 of the Licence (failure to supply recordings) - MTV France.

Ofcom found the Channels were in breach of these rules due to the following conduct:

  • the most offensive language and material was broadcast on TMF, MTV UK and MTV Hits (in some cases repeatedly) before the watershed and this material was not justified by the context of broadcasts that were likely to appeal to children;
  • the likely audience would have expected to have been protected from the most offensive language and material in such programming; and
  • in the case of MTV France, highly offensive text messages were broadcast in the early hours of the morning, which were not justified by the context, and the broadcaster failed to supply Ofcom on request with a copy of the programme complained about.

For the reasons set out in the adjudication, Ofcom imposed a financial penalty of £255,000 on MTV Networks (payable to HM Paymaster General).

The full adjudication can be found at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/ocsc_adjud/mtv.pdf


In Breach

The Best of Orange Playlist – 2007 Best Guests
TMF, 30 December 2007, 19:30

Introduction

This programme featured interviews with celebrities talking about their lives and experiences and was broadcast at 19:30 on TMF, part of MTV Networks International. Ofcom received a complaint regarding the general content of the programme, including strong language and sexual and drug references, which the complainant considered inappropriate for broadcast before the watershed.

We asked MTV Networks International (responsible for compliance at TMF) for comments under Section One of the Code: Protection of the under-eighteens. In particular, we referred TMF to: Rule 1.10 (the use of illegal drugs); Rule 1.16 (offensive language) and Rule 1.17 (portrayal of sexual behaviour).

Response

MTV Networks replied that the programme was complied prior to transmission and it was decided that the strong language and drug references were to be removed so that the show would be appropriate for transmission after 19:00 . The version that was broadcast was not however edited in line with the compliance advice and, in any event, the compliance advice was incomplete because it did not cover some of the more sexually explicit content. MTV Networks apologised and confirmed that the programme should not have aired at a time when children were likely to be watching because some of the content was not appropriate or editorially justified for the time of transmission. MTV Networks has now re-certified the programme so it is suitable for broadcast, but only after 21:00 .

Decision

This programme was broadcast at 19:30 on a channel readily available, and of particular appeal, to a young audience. Rule 1.10 stipulates that the use of illegal drugs and the abuse of drugs or alcohol must generally be avoided and in any case not be condoned, encouraged or glamorised in programmes broadcast before the watershed, unless there is editorial justification.

At the beginning of the programme, the presenter, Jayne Middlemiss, describes her celebrity interviewees in revered terms such as “the biggest names in showbiz”, “ Hollywood legends” and “rock royalty”. There followed a montage of clips of celebrities talking about their use and enjoyment of illegal drugs. For example, an interview with the actor Danny Dyer included the following:

Middlemiss: “Were you doing loads of drugs then?”

Dyer: “Yes – even on the job we was taking Es, everyone skinning up and that, like it was great - such a rare, rare job”.

In another interview, the music promoter David Gest states:

“That era was so great because you could get high as a kite and you’d feel like you were utterly in outer space and I loved those days”.

In another clip, another interviewee states:

I loved getting stoned by myself and listening to my stereo. I remember I would just get really baked and open my window and sit on the windowsill…”

 Although at one point the presenter makes a brief reference to “worrying tales of excess”, the celebrities’ comments endorsing drug use are not challenged, giving the impression that the use of such substances is unproblematic. Overall, Ofcom therefore considered that by presenting the celebrity interviewees as highly aspirational figures, talking in these terms, the programme appeared to condone (and in some cases glamorise) the use of illegal drugs in breach of Rule 1.10 of the Code.

Ofcom noted that the most offensive language (‘fuck’, ‘fucking’) was ‘bleeped’. However, the programme included the frequent use of other offensive language such as ‘dick’, ‘shit’ and ‘cock’. This was not justified by the context and transmitted in a programme at 19:30. Rule 1.16 states that the frequent use of offensive language must be avoided before the watershed. In Ofcom’s view, despite the masking of the most offensive language, the use of other offensive language was so frequent as to be in breach of Rule 1.16 of the Code.

Rule 1.17 is intended to protect under eighteens from explicit representation of, or discussion about, sexual behaviour unless it is editorially justified. This programme contained several instances of graphic sexual discussion, for example David Gest asked if he could use the word ‘cunnilingus’ and then gave a description of how he had performed it. There was also a conversation about penis size and the age and way in which one interviewee started "wanking". Ofcom considers that this material was inappropriate for the time of broadcast when children were likely to be watching and that it was not justified editorially. Rule 1.17 of the Code has therefore also been breached.

Breach of Rules 1.10, 1.16 and 1.17

NOTE: This breach finding was recorded by Ofcom on 4 March 2008 . In reaching its decision to impose a statutory sanction on MTV Networks Europe, which is summarised above, the Content Sanctions Committee (“the Committee”) took into account this finding. Publication of this finding was therefore postponed until after the MTV Networks Europe sanctions adjudication was made public on 4 June 2008 . In that adjudication the Committee underlined that, should further breaches of the Code occur which warrant consideration of a sanction, the Committee will regard them with the utmost seriousness.


Ocean FM
Monday 14 January to Wednesday 16 January 2008 (inclusive)

Introduction

Ofcom has a statutory duty to ensure “a wide range of television and radio services which (taken as a whole) are both of high quality and calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests”. In local commercial radio, we secure this by the use of Formats. Each station’s Format includes a description of the output which each licensee is required to provide, based on the promises they made in their application to win the licence. Ofcom judges licence applications against four statutory criteria: the applicant’s ability to maintain the service, the extent to which the proposals broaden choice, the extent to which they cater for a variety of tastes and interests and evidence of demand or support.

Formats may be varied over time only with the approval of Ofcom, which judges such requests against a set of statutory criteria.

Formats are often defined in terms of particular musical genres (such as Adult Contemporary) and/or demographic groups (such as 15-24 year olds). The aim is not for Ofcom to define the nation’s musical tastes but to ensure that, in any particular market, the range of services available should cover different musical genres and different demographic groups, so catering for a variety of tastes and interests.

The level of detail in Formats has recently been reduced, following Ofcom’s Future of Radio consultation, but in simplifying Formats the aim has been to retain diversity of output, without micro-managing output. Compliance with Formats is ensured by sample content checks and the maintenance of an online public file for each station.

In the South Hampshire area, six local commercial stations are available, each with a distinct Format. The new, simplified Formats are as follows:

OCEAN FM (South Hampshire) – owned by GCap Media

A locally oriented, mainly current adult contemporary music and information station for 25–44 year-olds in the South Hampshire area.

POWER FM (South Hampshire) – owned by GCap Media

A locally oriented young contemporary, chart music and information station primarily for 15-24 year-olds in the South Hampshire area.

GOLD (South Hampshire) – owned by GCap Media

A classic pop hits station, with local information, targeted primarily at 35-54 year-olds in the South Hampshire area.

ORIGINAL 106 ( Solent Region) – owned by CanWest

Adult Alternative radio – a credible mix of adult-orientated music, with particular appeal for 40-59 year-olds, with 24 hour local news. (Note: Original’s Format includes further detail as the station is less than two years old and, in line with Ofcom policy, its Format has not yet been simplified)

WAVE 105 ( Solent Region) – owned by Bauer Radio

A locally oriented music and information station for over 30s in the Solent and adjacent area, playing a spread of adult contemporary and soft adult contemporary hits, and treating speech as an important ingredient.

107.8 RADIO HAMPSHIRE (Southampton) – owned by Town & Country Broadcasting

A Southampton centred service of local news, views, information and entertainment mixed with mainstream hits from the last 4 decades.

THE QUAY ( Portsmouth ) – owned by The Local Radio Company

A full local service radio station for the greater Portsmouth area with a focus on listeners aged 25-54 with broad music and a strong commitment to local news.

The previous more detailed Format for Ocean FM stated that the station should play “predominantly (up to 70%) current Adult Contemporary tracks … from the previous twelve months”.

During October 2007, Ofcom monitored and sampled three days output of Ocean FM’s. Ofcom concluded that the station was not operating within the parameters of its agreed Format. In particular it was found that only 9.5% of the music was drawn from the past 12 months, and we also noted that there were a high number of classic and alternative/modern rock tracks being aired. Older music and rock music are already provided by other stations in the area and so Ocean’s move away from its Format had the result of diminishing choice for listeners in the area.

Therefore, in November 2007, Ofcom issued Ocean FM a ‘Yellow Card’ as a formal warning and required it to broadcast material within its Format.

Ofcom’s Content Sampling Report (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/radio/ifi/contentsampling/ocean.pdf) stated that we would monitor the station again, and that the Yellow Card would be lifted if we were subsequently satisfied that the issues identified in the Report had been addressed.

Between 14-16 January 2008, Ofcom carried out a second three-day monitoring of Ocean FM’s output. Despite some significant changes made to the station’s output to address the issues raised by the Content Sampling Report, Ofcom considered that Ocean FM was still operating outside of its Format; its music output was still too old in its choice of tracks, and too rock-oriented to fulfil the spirit of a station licensed as an Adult Contemporary service.

Response

GCap said that the issuing of a Yellow card against Ocean FM in November 2007 had been regarded as a highly serious matter by the radio station, and that significant changes were made to Ocean FM’s music scheduling policy as a result. It was therefore extremely disappointed that, despite the implementation of these changes, Ocean FM was (in Ofcom’s view) still – in the January 2008 sampling period – operating outside the parameters required by the station’s Format.

Reviewing the same 72 hours of output, that Ofcom had sampled, Ocean FM said that the failure to deliver a satisfactory proportion of songs from the past twelve months was the result of the station’s automation system, and some presenters, dropping a number of songs which had been scheduled to play out. Ocean FM’s management says it has now reconfigured the automation software so that the timing issues which were experienced previously should not happen again.

Decision

In its January 2008 sampling, Ofcom noted that Ocean FM was now playing a considerably higher proportion of current tracks than during the previous sampling period in October 2007. However, while there had been an improvement in January 2008, the three days of monitored output revealed that tracks from the past twelve months still accounted for less than half of the station’s music output. We could not, therefore, take the view that Ocean FM was providing the listener with “predominately” current tracks, as the Format required.

We also noted that Ocean FM was continuing to play a significant number of rock tracks that could not be considered Adult Contemporary . Such rock tracks included Muse/Starlight; Arctic Monkeys/FluorescentAdolescent; Foo Fighters/Long Road To Ruin; Killers/Read My Mind; The Who/Squeezebox; The Jam/That’s Entertainment. The overall effect was to continue to give the station an older-leaning, rock-oriented feel which we consider remained at odds with Ocean FM’s core Format promise and so reduced the overall choice available to listeners in South Hampshire.

In this context, it is worth noting that on 7 February 2008 we wrote to all licensees regarding the simplification of their Formats. In that letter, we stated the following:

While the new style Formats do not include quotas – for example requiring a given percentage of music from a certain era – we will apply a ‘common sense’ approach to enforcing them should there be any disputes. If, for instance, a station’s Format requires it to be ‘mainly classic pop’, we would not accept that 51% classic pop and 49% heavy metal was a sensible interpretation of the Format’s spirit.

When interpreting “mainly” with regard to current tracks, Ofcom believes this demand indicates that a listener should hear a current track more often than not when they switch on general (i.e. non-specialist) programming. In this context we do not believe that a bare majority (say 51% current tracks) would be sufficient, and we would expect a significantly higher proportion than this for a station to be operating within the overall spirit of the Format. However, we do not believe it would be right to put figures on this, as every case will differ.

Similarly what constitutes “current” is also open to interpretation, but only in relation to the overall character of the particular service concerned. For example, Ofcom does not propose to say that, for every type of commercial radio station, current tracks must be less than a year old. But, equally, Ofcom would not expect the “current” component of a station’s music policy to include a large proportion of tracks that were more than a year old.

In the case of Format definitions such as “Adult Contemporary”, Ofcom will take a sensibly wide interpretation of the genre. For example, some artists have made tracks that could comfortably be classified as Adult Contemporary, even though the artist’s overall catalogue of work may not necessarily fall easily into that category.

Similar principles apply to other Formats. Ofcom’s expectation of a “contemporary and chart music” station is that the main diet is of modern music, reflecting the charts of today and recent months. Older, classic tracks would not be out of place, but only as ‘spice’ to the main offering. If they become more dominant than that it is likely the station will be operating outside its Format.

For stations that have broad (i.e. non-specialist) music formats, listeners should expect to hear at any point a broad mix of genres, unless a specialist show is being broadcast. “Identifiable” specialist shows indicate programme-length sequences, and not a short music feature contained within a broader programme.

With regard to localness, the detail (such as specific requirements to carry whats-ons and the like) may have gone, but listener expectation means that much of that sort of material should still be carried if a station is to carry out its function of providing a local, or locally-oriented, station for a particular geographical area. As stated in the letter to stations which accompanied the new Format drafts, if a service is described as “locally focused” or “locally oriented”, we would not expect hour after hour to pass by with no local content.

Following further discussions with Ofcom about the definition and scope of ‘Adult Contemporary’ music, GCap provided us with evidence that Ocean FM’s music database has been restructured. All songs have been now been classified by genre to ensure the mix of genres is not weighted too heavily towards one particular genre, such as rock, that might compromise the overall Adult Contemporary flavour of the station.

Despite the Yellow Card warning that was issued in November 2007, it was clear from the monitoring carried out in January 2008 that Ocean FM was still not operating within the parameters of its published Format. A formal breach of Ocean FM’s licence has therefore been recorded. We conclude that the Yellow Card issued in October 2007 should remain in place.

We will monitor Ocean FM’s music output again within the next three months. If we find that the relevant issues identified in this report have been addressed, we will lift the Yellow Card. However, further failure to meet its Format will lead Ofcom to consider further regulatory action, including the imposition of a financial penalty against Ocean FM.

Breach of Part 1 of the Annex to Ocean FM’s Licence


Trailer for I huvudet på Gynning
Kanal 5 (Sweden), 18 February 2008 at 19:15

Introduction

This trailer was for a programme in which Carolina Gynning, a Swedish model and television presenter, went to Hollywood to meet “ Hollywood groupies”. During the trailer, Carolina Gynning was shown meeting a woman who - the trailer said - had slept with “stars such as Mick Jagger” and “had made a career from making casts of celebrities’ private parts”. The trailer then stated “does she just like touching cocks?” and showed a back view of a semi-naked man apparently having a cast made. It also showed a cast of an erect penis. A viewer complained to Ofcom that the trailer’s inclusion of the image of the cast and “coarse sex words” was inappropriate for the time of broadcast.

Kanal 5 (Sweden) is a Swedish language channel licensed in the United Kingdom by Ofcom, and whose licence is held by SBS Broadcasting Networks Limited (“SBS Broadcasting”). SBS Broadcasting is responsible for compliance at Kanal 5. Ofcom therefore asked SBS Broadcasting for its comments in relation to the following Rules of the Code: Rules 1.3 (inappropriate scheduling), 1.16 (offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed unless justified by the context), and 2.3 (generally accepted standards).

Response

The broadcaster said that, although it believed it had adequate compliance procedures in place, on this occasion human error led to this trailer being inappropriately scheduled. SBS Broadcasting admitted there were breaches of Rules 1.3, 1.16 and 2.3 of the Code. Following this incident, SBS Broadcasting said that its legal department would provide further compulsory training to all relevant production, scheduling and content staff, and scheduling procedures had been tightened.

Decision

This trailer contained language and images which were potentially offensive to viewers in general and children in particular, and which were inappropriately scheduled before the watershed and not justified by the context. Ofcom welcomes the broadcaster’s recognition that this trailer breached the Code and the subsequent remedial measures it has taken to strengthen and improve compliance. A ll broadcasters are under a clear duty to ensure that robust procedures are in place, supported by a sufficient number of appropriately qualified and trained staff, to ensure full compliance with the Code.

Breach of Rules 1.3, 1.16 and 2.3 of the Code


Resolved

The Simpsons
Channel 4, 15 April 2008, 18:00

Introduction

This episode featured a cameo appearance by the pop group U2 during which one of the band members called his colleagues “wankers”. This incident was later mimicked by the character Mr Burns in the closing credits of the episode. 31 viewers complained that this language was unacceptable in a programme which appeals to children and was broadcast before the watershed.

Ofcom asked Channel 4 for its comments against Rules 1.16 (offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed unless justified by the context) and 2.3 (generally accepted standards) of the Code.

Response

Channel 4 apologised for this offensive language and acknowledged that it was unsuitable for broadcast at 18:00 . The broadcaster explained that it has robust compliance procedures for The Simpsons. On this occasion, however, there was an error by one of its compliance staff, who incorrectly certified the programme as suitable to be shown from 18:00 and this mistake was not subsequently corrected by the Acquisitions Department. Channel 4 regretted these mistakes, and said it was the first time in over 10 years of its compliance system being in place that an incorrect certification by a viewer had resulted in a programme being transmitted in a wrong slot. They told Ofcom that, despite the unlikely repeat of this unusual set of circumstances, the Compliance and Acquisitions teams are reviewing their procedures to prevent any similar recurrence.

Decision

Ofcom’s research indicates that the word “wanker”, although quite mild to many people, is clearly offensive language[(-1-)]. Its use at 18:00 in a programme like The Simpsons, with a clear appeal to children[(-2-)], and broadcast on the main Channel 4 service, was not justified by the context and was not in line with audience expectations – as Channel 4 has acknowledged.

Ofcom is concerned about the compliance failure in this case. However Ofcom has taken into account that Channel 4’s compliance procedures in relation to scheduling before the watershed appear relatively robust, that this failure seems an isolated incident, and that Channel 4 is reviewing its compliance procedures. It has therefore decided to treat the matter as resolved on this occasion.

Resolved

Footnotes:

1.- http://www.ofcom.org.uk/research/radio/reports/bcr/language.pdf ; page 84

2.- The programme has a child index of 146.5. Child index is the figure used to calculate the proportion of children in an audience against the general viewing population. A figure of 100 indicates that the child audience watching the programme exactly matches the general profile. A figure of e.g. a 120 would mean that children watching that programme are over-represented by 20%.


Not In Breach

Dispatches: The Court of Ken
Channel 4, 22 January 2008, 20:00

Introduction

This edition of the Dispatches investigative current affairs programme, presented by Martin Bright (Political Editor of The New Statesman) looked at Ken Livingstone’s record as Mayor of London and questioned whether the Office of Mayor was best serving the needs of London . In particular, the programme looked into allegations of electoral malpractice by special advisors and unprofessional conduct by the then London Mayor, Ken Livingstone. The programme also examined issues surrounding the London Congestion Charge, and Ken Livingstone’s so called “oil for transport” deal with the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, under which Venezuela was to exchange cheap oil for London providing advice on public services such as transport, tourism and housing. The views of a number of contributors were included in the programme. These included representatives of the main political parties, former advisors to the Mayor and the London Assembly and representatives of various non-politically aligned groups.

Ofcom received 12 complaints from viewers about this programme. These fell into two groups :

  1. that the programme made unsubstantiated allegations against Ken Livingstone, then Mayor of London and this was unfair; and
  2. overall, the programme was not presented with due impartiality.

In relation to i), Ofcom can only consider whether the treatment of an individual or organisation is unfair, if it has received a complaint from the affected party or someone authorised to bring a complaint on their behalf. Ofcom has received no complaint from Ken Livingstone (or someone authorised by him). Ofcom therefore has not investigated these matters.

Broadcasters must ensure that due impartiality is preserved when dealing with matters of political or industrial controversy. In terms of Dispatches: The Court of Ken Ofcom considered that the issues of the Congestion Charge and the “oil for transport” deal were matters of political controversy and therefore Channel 4 was required to ensure that these matters were dealt with due impartiality in accordance with Section Five of the Code. In particular:

  • Rule 5.5 states that “[ d]ue impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved”…; and
  • Rule 5.8 states that any “personal interest of a reporter or presenter, which would call into question the due impartiality of the programme, must be made clear to the audience…”

Response

Channel 4 stated that viewers were made aware of Martin Bright’s professional position at the start of the programme when he was captioned as the “Political Editor, New Statesman”, and it was also made clear that Martin Bright had once been a supporter of the former Mayor, but was now disappointed by his record. Channel 4 said that the programme did not offer Martin Bright’s personal or authored view of Ken Livingstone’s performance as Mayor but presented the findings of a six month investigation by the programme team. It was Martin Bright’s role to report them. Channel 4 said that, as the programme was clearly promoted as a Dispatches investigation and not an authored or personal view programme, it was not necessary or appropriate to alert viewers otherwise from the outset.

London Congestion Charge

Channel 4 said that the programme presented the introduction of the Congestion Charge in a positive light, saying that it was a genuinely bold measure, and included library footage of the former Mayor explaining its rationale. The programme also made clear that in 2003 the former Mayor had introduced the scheme with the stated intention that “the only reason we are doing congestion charging is so that cars can speed up in London ” and it included quotes from contributors who acknowledged that the scheme had reduced congestion and had alleviated the amount of traffic in London . However, Channel 4 said that the programme’s investigation found that since 2004 the way in which the scheme was promoted to the public had been subtly changed from “reduction of congestion” to “reduction of cars” coming into London. It also said that the scheme was promoted to the public as getting more people out of cars and onto buses. Channel 4 said that the programme acknowledged that more people were using buses since the introduction of the Congestion Charge, but that according to Transport for London’s (“TFL”) own figures in 2007, buses were travelling progressively slower every year.

Channel 4 said that the programme examined the issue of the Congestion Charge with due impartiality. The former Mayor’s position was fairly reflected for example through the contribution of Professor Stephen Glaister (a board member of TFL, which is controlled and chaired by the Mayor and oversees the Congestion Charge scheme), and through the publicly available facts sourced from TFL’s own reports which were fairly reflected in the programme.

Venezuelan “oil for transport” deal

Channel 4 said the programme examined this issue with due impartiality. The programme fairly reflected the former Mayor’s argument that fostering trade relations with foreign countries helped “drum up” business for London and raised London ’s international profile. It included Ken Livingstone’s public statement as Mayor in which he maintained the deal was beneficial to both countries and his explanation of the financial benefits to Londoners, and an extract from his public announcement in which he stated “ a quarter of a million Londoners will now benefit by having a half price concession on the buses and trams”.

However, the programme also sought to question whether these trade relations were necessarily in the best interest of Londoners or indeed the people of Venezuela . The Conservative MP Alan Duncan questioned why one of the world’s poorest countries was subsidising one of the richest, a view shared by critics of President Chavez. Concern was also echoed across party lines by the inclusion of comments by Labour MP Nick Raynsford, the former Minister for London and the minister responsible for setting up the Mayor’s Office. He questioned why Mr Livingstone had felt inclined to venture into international politics in this way with President Chavez’s regime . However, the former Mayor’s stated reasons for the benefits of trade relations generally and his public pronouncements as to the merits of the deal were fairly reflected in the programme.

Decision

Investigative journalism plays an essential role in public service broadcasting and is clearly in the public interest. Ofcom considers it of paramount importance that broadcasters, such as Channel 4, continue to explore controversial subject matter. It is inevitable such programmes which tackle highly sensitive subjects will have a high profile. Such controversial programmes may inevitably lead on occasions to complaints.

In making investigative programmes, broadcasters must always take care to ensure that the material broadcast is in accordance with the Code. For instance, broadcasters must ensure that: matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy included are presented with due impartiality; the content does not materially mislead viewers; and, those featured in programmes are not treated unfairly.

Ofcom considered the complaints that programme was not presented with due impartiality with reference to Martin Bright’s status as presenter and the two matters of political controversy which were raised in the programme. Ofcom did not consider whether Ken Livingstone was treated fairly in the programme.

Martin Bright

Ofcom noted that Martin Bright was captioned at the beginning of the programme as “Martin Bright, Political Editor, New Statesman”. We also consider that any personal interest of Martin Bright which would call into question the due impartiality of the programme was made clear to viewers through various comments made by Martin Bright about his personal views on Mr Livingstone at the beginning of the programme. In any event, Martin Bright’s role was primarily to present the findings of the Dispatches production team’s investigation and not his personal views about Ken Livingstone and the Office of Mayor. Rule 5.8 was therefore not breached.

London Congestion Charge

As acknowledged by Channel 4, the rationale and effectiveness of the London Congestion Charge is a matter of political controversy or current public policy.

Ofcom noted that the programme included a number of viewpoints – both supportive and critical - about the Congestion Charge. It noted that this issue was introduced in the programme with library footage of the former Mayor setting out the reasons for imposing a charge on all traffic entering a designated area of the city. The programme also included quotes from Greater London Assembly press releases that promoted the Congestion Charge scheme and comments from contributors who acknowledged that the scheme had reduced congestion and had alleviated the amount of traffic in London . The programme also stated that the Congestion Charge scheme had also been promoted as a means of getting more people onto the bus network rather than using their cars. Ofcom noted that the inclusion of a quote from a statement by Mr Livingstone was an acknowledgement by the programme that more people were using the bus network since the introduction of the Congestion Charge.

The programme also included voices and analysis critical of the way the Congestion Charge policy has developed.

Taking the above factors into account, Ofcom considered that the issues related to congestion charging in London were presented with due impartiality and Rule 5.5 of the Code was therefore not breached.

Venezuelan “oil for transport” deal

The issue relating to the Venezuelan “oil for transport deal” is also a matter of political controversy and current public policy. Ofcom noted that in questioning whether the trade relations were necessarily in the best interest of Londoners and the people of the foreign countries involved, the programme introduced the issue by reflecting the then Mayor’s views. It expressed Ken Livingstone’s reasoning that fostering trade relations with foreign countries would be beneficial to London . The programme also included Mr Livingstone’s public statement that explained why he was behind the deal with Venezuela (namely that oil was cheap to Venezuela and that London ’s expertise in transport was cheap to London ) and it made clear his explanation of the financial benefits that the deal would provide to Londoners.

Ofcom also noted that the programme included comments from the Labour MP, Nick Raysford, who questioned whether it was appropriate for the Mayor of London to venture into international politics. The programme also included the view of Conservative MP, Alan Duncan, who questioned why one of the world’s richest countries was being subsidised by one of the poorest - a view shared across all party lines.

Taking the above factors into account, Ofcom concluded that the programme examined this issue with due impartiality. The former Mayor’s reasons for entering into the deal were fairly reflected in the programme together with the views of those opposed to it. Rule 5.5 of the Code was therefore not breached in relation to this issue.

Not in breach


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