Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 119 - 13|10|08
Guns N’ Roses, SportxxxBabes, Various programmes, Teleshopping, Promotional material broadcast during programmes & Promotional material broadcast during programmes
Guns N’ Roses
Biography Channel, 11 August 2008, 12:20
A viewer complained about bad language during an interview with Guns N’ Roses where the singer, Axl Rose, said “I guess being a fucking psycho bastard nut case helps my career”. The viewer believed it was not appropriate to broadcast this language at this time.
Ofcom asked The Biography Channel for its comments in light of Rule 1.14 of the Code (the most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed).
The Biography Channel apologised. It explained that when preparing the programme, the offending, uncensored language remained on one audio channel and was included on the sound track of the final broadcast through human error.
The Biography Channel advised that it has updated its compliance procedures with additional training and logging systems, including a review of all content within daytime programmes across its channels, to prevent any similar recurrence.
The Code requires that broadcasters avoid broadcasting the most offensive language before the watershed. The word “fuck” and its derivatives are clear examples of such language.
While noting the broadcaster’s admission of human error, Ofcom judged that the language was clear in this programme and that the broadcaster should have been more alert to the possibility of bad language when interviewing a member of a rock group.
This is the second occasion where material has been inappropriately scheduled (see Bulletin issue number 80). Ofcom has therefore recorded a breach of Rule 1.14 for transmitting the most offensive language before the 21:00 watershed.
Breach of Rule 1.14
SportxxxBabes, 19 and 20 November 2007, 22:00
SportxxxBabes is listed in the adult section of the Sky electronic programme guide (“EPG”). It broadcasts programmes based on interactive ‘adult’ chat services: viewers are invited to contact on-screen presenters (‘babes’) via premium rate telephony services (“PRS”). The female presenters dress provocatively and encourage viewers to contact them.
While monitoring output in the ‘adult’ section of the EPG, on the above dates from 22:00, Ofcom noted that the programming focussed extensively on the depictions of masturbation – the output showed the female presenter on each date engaged in this activity for the majority of the programme.
We sought comments from the holder of the licence, Satellite Entertainment Ltd (“SEL”), on the broadcast under the following Code Rules:
- Rule 1.24 (‘adult-sex’ material is restricted to overnight encrypted services);
- Rule 2.1 (the broadcaster must apply generally accepted standards); and
- Rule 2.3 (offensive material must be justified by context).
SEL acknowledged that the content was contrary to specific Ofcom guidance, published in Ofcom’s Broadcast Bulletin issue number 95 in October 2007[(-1-)] . It apologised for the broadcast.
SEL investigated why the breach of the Code occurred and advised that the content was broadcast under the supervision of a new producer. SEL accepted that it had not made Ofcom’s guidance on the meaning of ‘adult-sex’ material sufficiently clear to the producer and confirmed that it had taken steps to rectify the problem and to ensure that it did not happen again.
1.- This Bulletin is available at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/obb95/
We are extremely concerned by the broadcaster’s failure to ensure the material it broadcast on the channel on 19 and 20 November 2007 complied with the Code. The seriousness of the breach was aggravated by the fact that it occurred just after Ofcom had published a number of Findings about similar content on 22 October 2007 in Broadcast Bulletin issue number 95. In one of these Findings, against LivexxxBabes (a channel also operated by SEL), Ofcom made clear that “depictions of masturbation, simulated or otherwise, are not appropriate for unencrypted broadcast unless there is strong editorial justification.”
In addition, the breach occurred at a time when the Licensee was under consideration of a statutory sanction for other breaches that had occurred on SportxxxBabes in February and March 2007[(-2-)]. Ofcom considered referring the November 2007 breaches to the Content Sanctions Committee (“the Committee”). However, in view of all the circumstances of this case - including the broadcaster’s quick and frank admission of the breaches, the steps taken to rectify the problem and the subsequent improvements to the channel’s content in terms of compliance with the Code - Ofcom finally decided not to do so.
However, should breaches of a similar nature occur on the channel in future, Ofcom will not hesitate to consider referring the matter to the Committee for consideration of a sanction, which could include the imposition of a financial penalty or revocation of the broadcaster’s licence.
2.- Ofcom’s Content Sanctions Committee’s adjudication dated 26 August 2008 on these earlier breaches, which imposed a financial penalty of £20,000 on SportxxxBabes, can be found at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/ocsc_adjud/sportxxxbabes.pdf.
Breach of Rules 1.24, 2.1 and 2.3
Channel U and Fizz, 12 March 2008, 11:00-15:00
Channel U, an urban music channel, and Fizz, a pop music channel, are owned by Video Interactive Group plc. The content on both channels is based on audience interaction: viewers are invited to vote for the videos they want broadcast; submit photos and text messages (“ TXT/TV ”); and take part in competitions. All interaction is via premium rate services (“PRS”). The cost to viewers of submitting text messages to the channels is £1.00 per message (plus standard network charges) and for photos, £1.50 (plus standard network charges).
Text messages submitted by viewers are moderated by channel employees before broadcast. Viewers’ text messages appear on screen prefixed by three numbers. The channel moderators also ‘post’ their own messages on screen, as a means of interacting with the audience. These messages appear prefixed by “CHU” on Channel U and “FIZ” on Fizz.
Ofcom monitored the output of both channels between 11:00 and 15:00 on 12 March 2008 and noted a number of potential issues with regard to Rule 2.2 of the Code (portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience). In particular, Ofcom noted:
(i) “TXT/ TV” text messages, apparently from different viewers (as indicated by different pre-fixed numbers), were repeated frequently on both channels. Examples were:
- “wheres all the buff lads at?”
- “wheres all thebebuff girls at???”
- “will any1 chat with an attractive blnde f 22 xx”
- “any1 wanna chat with a sxc nurse xxx”
- “im cheatin on my wife wit an 18 yr old get in there!”
- “where all the emo kids at 2day”
- “where r the essex gals? send me a pic xx ”
- “eny essex gals here? tb x! ”
Ofcom noted that these messages solicited interaction from other viewers at a premium rate cost. Due to the frequency and similar/identical nature of these messages, we questioned their authenticity.
(ii) Fizz broadcast a “fun quiz” (with no prize) in which a moderator asked “Which football star is married to Alex Curran?” Over a period of approximately 16 minutes, during which further invitations to enter the “fun quiz” were made to viewers, multiple wrong answers, including David Beckham and Ashley Cole, were broadcast before the moderator confirmed the correct answer. Numerous correct answers were then broadcast.
As Fizz is a pop music channel aimed at young people who were likely to have known the answer to the question, Ofcom sought the broadcaster’s comments on why it had taken so long to reveal the correct answer.
We asked the broadcaster to comment on both issues under Rule 2.2 of the Code.
Video Interactive Group plc advised that, when investigating Ofcom’s concerns, it discovered that its Interactive Sales Manager had given the text moderators unauthorised instructions to make the text services, mainly on Channel U, “look busy”. This instruction was made without any company consultation. As a result, some of the text moderators, working on both Channel U and Fizz, had acted “beyond their remit” and “canvassed” viewers’ text messages through displaying misleading information.
The broadcaster said the Sales Manager had been asked to leave the company at the end of April 2008 and that it had suspended two text moderators. The broadcaster advised that it had subsequently issued instructions to all text moderators to cease any practices resulting in on-screen texting of the type summarised at (i) above and that it had suspended the “fun quiz” element pending a review.
The broadcaster said it could not comment specifically on the quiz referred to but acknowledged that, in some quizzes, a correct answer may have been held back for a brief period.
The broadcaster pointed out that its viewers are part of a regular community and are aware of the costs involved in contacting the channel. It noted that Ofcom had received no complaints from viewers and stated that, since the withdrawal of the quizzes, many viewers had sent in messages asking for them to return.
The broadcaster apologised for any Code breaches that might have occurred and assured Ofcom that, in future, it would make clear which messages were generated by channel staff.
As stated in Ofcom’s published guidance on Rule 2.2, where a viewer or listener has paid a premium to interact with a programme, there is a clear potential for financial harm.
When inviting viewers to interact with programmes via PRS it is therefore essential that broadcasters ensure that viewers are not misled about the nature of the interaction. Incorrect or ambiguous information about who is soliciting a response from viewers and/or for what purpose may mislead viewers into using PRS and therefore incurring financial loss.
In this case, the broadcaster solicited text and picture messages from viewers of Channel U and Fizz by passing off text moderators’ messages as genuine messages from viewers seeking to interact with other members of the audience. Ofcom has found no evidence to demonstrate that viewers incurred financial loss as a direct result of being materially misled in this way. Notwithstanding this, Ofcom considers that, given the nature and frequency of the practices described above, viewers were likely to have responded believing they were interacting with other viewers and, as a result, were materially misled by the broadcaster. This was unacceptable.
Ofcom notes the broadcaster’s frank admission that correct answers may have been “held back” in some quizzes. While we welcome the broadcaster’s decision to suspend the “fun quiz” pending review, we consider the practice of holding back correct answers to questions while continuing to encourage viewers to pay to submit answers was likely to have resulted in viewers being materially misled into submitting entries. If the broadcaster had intended not to reveal the correct answer for a specified period of time, this should have been made clear to viewers
The broadcasts were therefore in breach of Rule 2.2 of the Code.
Ofcom expects all broadcasters to exercise extreme caution when inviting audiences to interact with programmes via PRS, to ensure that audiences are not materially misled.
Breach of Rule 2.2
Beverly Hills TV, July 2008, various dates
Beverly Hills TV is a teleshopping channel. Teleshopping is a form of advertising involving the broadcast of direct offers to the public with a view to the supply of goods or services. When monitoring the channel’s output, Ofcom noted that on several occasions the broadcaster advertised a number of jewellery items without including the prices. An on-screen caption stated “Our Price £CALL”. Viewers could only obtain the price of the items by either calling the on-screen telephone number (an 0870 number costing up to 10p per minute from a landline telephone) or by accessing the broadcaster’s website.
We requested the broadcaster’s comments with regard to Rule 8.1(b) of the Rules on the Amount and Distribution of Advertising (“RADA”)[(-3-)]. This rule requires teleshopping offers to contain the direct offer for sale within the teleshopping transmission itself. Where the offer for sale is only contained elsewhere, the material may not be classed as teleshopping.
3.- RADA was replaced by the Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (“COSTA” http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/codes/code_adv/tacode.pdf) on 1 September 2008.
Beverly Hills TV commented that Rule 8.1(b) of RADA does not specifically mention pricing as a requirement of a direct offer for sale. It believed the concept of a ‘direct offer for sale within the teleshopping transmission itself’ could be interpreted to mean “sales presentations where the product on air is offered by the broadcaster directly and is ultimately available for sale direct via the broadcaster’s phone number or internet website”. It said that it “did not view the on-air display of pricing information as the core element needed for the ‘direct offer’ concept to apply”.
However, the broadcaster admitted that it may have misinterpreted the rule and agreed to cease the broadcast of the content in question.
Rule 8.1(b) of RADA requires teleshopping content to include the direct offer for sale to the public within the broadcast. Ofcom considers that the price of an item is a fundamental requirement of a direct sales offer as consumers are unable to reach a decision on whether to purchase an item without this information. As this information was omitted from the transmission, the material was in breach of Rule 8.1(b).
Breach of Rule 8.1(b) of RADA
Promotional material broadcast during programmes
Channel S ATN, 20 September 2007, 21:00-22:00 and
28 February 2008, 13:00-16:00
ATN, known at the times of broadcast as Channel S ATN, is a television service aimed at the British Bangladeshi community.
A viewer was concerned about the amount of advertising broadcast on Channel S ATN between 21:00 and 22:00 on 20 September 2007. In addition to approximately 12 minutes of advertising in a commercial break, advertisements were also scrolled intermittently across the screen (in a banner) during programmes.
We asked the broadcaster for its comments with regard to Rule 1.2 of the Rules on the Amount and Distribution of Advertising (“RADA”)[(-4-)] which permits no more than 12 minutes of advertising in any clock hour.
During our investigation into the complainant’s concern, Ofcom monitored Channel S ATN’s output and found scrolled advertising throughout much of its editorial between 13:00 and 16:00 on 28 February 2008. During each clock hour, the total amount of advertising exceeded 12 minutes. We asked the broadcaster for its comments with regard to RADA Rule 1.2.
4.- RADA was replaced by the Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising (“COSTA” http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/codes/code_adv/tacode.pdf) on 1 September 2008.
Channel S apologised for the amount of advertising it had broadcast. The broadcaster said that it had broadcast in a similar way to other channels, which it had assumed were compliant with the Code. It explained that it had now stopped adding scrolled advertising across the screen during programmes and assured Ofcom that it was taking steps, including contact with its overseas programme supplier, to avoid recurrence.
We note the broadcaster’s apology for broadcasting more than 12 minutes of advertisements in each clock hour on both occasions, in breach of Rule 1.2 of RADA. We also note that Channel S has now decided not to add scrolled advertisements to material broadcast on its UK television channels.
Nevertheless, Ofcom is concerned that Channel S chose to refl ect the type of material it had seen on other channels without adequately considering its own compliance obligations. Ofcom also notes that this practice was repeated in different output on Channel S, another licensed service with the same owner (see our Finding concerning Mortgage and Finance, published in Broadcast Bulletin issue number 118, at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/obb118/).
See the Note concerning this and various other Channel S services on page 13.
20 September 2007 : Breach of RADA Rule 1.2
28 February 2008 : Breach of RADA Rule 1.2
Promotional material broadcast during programmes
Channel S ATN, 27 February 2008 to 2 March 2008, various times;
Channel S NTV, 27 February 2008 to 3 March 2008, various times
ATN (known at the times of broadcast as Channel S ATN), and Channel I (known at the times of broadcast as Channel S NTV) are television services aimed at the British Bangladeshi community.
A viewer contacted Ofcom with concerns about the amount of advertising broadcast in both scrolled material and the commercial breaks during a number of programmes transmitted between 27 February 2008 and 3 March 2008 on Channel S ATN and Channel S NTV.
After a significant delay, Channel S provided Ofcom with recordings of the programmes. However, it was unable to provide recordings which included the scrolled material or commercial breaks. Condition 11(2) of each channel’s TLCS licence requires that the Licensee shall make and retain (or arrange for the retention of) a recording of its output for a period of 60 days after broadcast and provide Ofcom with such material, as required.
On the basis of the information Ofcom held at the time, we therefore asked a representative of the two channels (“Channel S” or “the broadcaster”) for comment with regard to Rule 1.2 of RADA (which permits no more than 12 minutes of advertising in any clock hour) and Condition 11(2) of each channel’s licence to broadcast.
With regard to its inability to provide recordings of the scrolled material or commercial breaks, Channel S said that it had “ a clear policy to record all broadcasts which are aired but unfortunately although the broadcasts and ads strips were saved this was done on different systems. Staff had assumed that broadcast recordings included [the ads] and backups were made but not of the ad strips. When both were lost, the broadcasts were retrieved but the ads were not. This anomaly has now been corrected.”
Nevertheless, Channel S admitted that “news broadcasts have contained advertisement scrolls which have been immovable.” The broadcaster said it believed that “it [was] clear that any ads were not of relevance to the UK ”, having originated from Bangladesh. The broadcaster added that Channel S does not have the facility to remove such advertising.
Channel S subsequently claimed that it would be able to provide recordings of the relevant material, as broadcast, adding that it “has agreements in place with its Bangladesh partners for them to keep copies of all recordings”.
Ofcom is very concerned that Channel S has admitted that it is unable to ensure UK compliance of Bangladeshi news material that includes superimposed scrolled advertising from Bangladesh. Channel S has been reminded of its obligation to ensure that all material broadcast on its UK services complies with regulatory requirements, including the Code.
To date, Ofcom has not received the recordings Channel S subsequently claimed it was sourcing from Bangladesh. Therefore, in the absence of recordings of the material, as broadcast, Ofcom has reached its decision based on the information currently available to it. The broadcaster failed to retain recordings of the output, as broadcast, of either service, or to supply them to Ofcom when requested to do so. The broadcaster was in breach of Condition 11(2) of each channel’s TLCS licence to broadcast.
Further, we note that the issue raised by the complainant in this case relates in part to the same channel (Channel S ATN) that Ofcom has monitored and found in breach of RADA with regard to the same issue (Rule 1.2) and concerning programmes broadcast around the same date (see preceding Finding concerning promotional material broadcast during programmes, above). On the basis of the information available, Ofcom therefore judges that the output broadcast by Channel S ATN and Channel S NTV between 27 February and 3 March 2008, contained in excess of 12 minutes of advertising, in breach of Rule 1.2 of RADA.
Channel S ATN : Breaches of RADA Rule 1.2 and Licence Condition 11(2)
Channel S NTV : Breaches of RADA Rule 1.2 and Licence Condition 11(2)
Note re: Channel S’ various services
Ofcom published Findings concerning Channel S ATN and Channel S in our previous Broadcast Bulletin (Issue number 118, which can be found at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/obb118/)
We note the common ownership of the following licensees:
Channel S Global Ltd, which runs Channel S;
Channel S Plus Ltd, which runs ATN (previously Channel S ATN); and
Channel I (UK) Ltd, which runs Channel I (previously Channel S NTV).
Ofcom is seriously concerned about the compliance ability of these licensees. Given the previous findings published in Bulletin issue number 118, and the two findings published in this Bulletin relating to their failure to comply with RADA and/or the Code, Ofcom has informed these licensees that they must attend a meeting to discuss the compliance structures they have in place and how they will ensure future compliance.
Further, Ofcom is putting these licensees on notice that we will consider further regulatory action in the event of recurrence of breaches of a similar nature.
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