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Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 45 - 10|10|05

Viasat, Stupid, Charlton vs. Manchester City live football, Streak Party

Standards cases

In Breach

Viasat
TV3 26 March 2005 , 15:30 and ZTV 11 April 2005 , 21:00

Introduction

TV3 and ZTV are two Swedish language general entertainment channels broadcast in the UK by Viasat Broadcasting UK Ltd.

On 26 March 2005 TV3 transmitted the football World Cup qualifier match between Sweden and Bulgaria. On 11 April 2005 ZTV broadcast a programme containing highlights of the Swedish premiership football league.

Both of these programmes were sponsored by a number of companies including Bet24Poker, part of Bet24, an online gambling facility. The Bet24Poker logo was shown at the opening of the programmes and at each advertising break. When the logo was onscreen at the opening of the programmes, a voiceover referred to Bet24 as the programmes’ sponsor.

At the end of the programmes a different graphic was used featuring playing cards and the voiceover referred to Bet24Poker.

TV3 26 March 2005, 15:30

During the match coverage, the commentators referred on four occasions to Bet24 and the odds that viewers could get at that moment from placing their bets with that company.

When these references were made, a graphic appeared on screen showing unbranded odds relating to potential occurrences in the game - for example the odds on a Swedish win, a Bulgarian win or the odds on a draw.

One viewer complained that such references to the product or services of a sponsor of the programme during the programme were in breach of Section 9.1 of the (ex-ITC) Code of Programme Sponsorship (‘the Code’). Section 9.1 of the Code states that, “There may be no reference, whether visual or oral, to the sponsor (or the sponsor's product or service) in the programme or series they are sponsoring. The financial relationship between a sponsor and a broadcaster or programme-maker may create a higher presumption that the inclusion of a sponsor reference is deliberate and/or promotional.” Section 9.1.3 notes that “This rule (9.1.1) also extends to generic references to the sponsor's (unbranded) product, service or business. When editorially justified, there may be occasions when a generic reference is justified, but this may never be in a way that suggests the generic reference is promotional for the sponsor.”

In addition Ofcom also asked the channel to comment on the complaint in relation to Section 4.1 of the Code. Section 4.1 of the Code states that one of the key principles underpinning the regulation of television sponsorship is “To ensure that programmes are not distorted for commercial purposes. A sponsor must not influence the content or scheduling of a programme in such a way as to affect the editorial independence and responsibility of the broadcaster.”

ZTV 11 April 2005, 21:00

On three occasions a graphic showing odds on the football matches being discussed by the in-studio experts were shown on screen. Two of these graphics displayed odds being offered by Bet24.com and by another gambling company. The third graphic displayed Bet24 odds only.

One viewer complained that such references to the product or services of a sponsor of the programme during the programme were in breach of Section 9.1 of the Code of Programme Sponsorship (‘the Code’). In addition Ofcom also asked the channel to comment on the complaint in relation to Section 4.1 of the Code.

Response

Section 4.1

Viasat said that the TV3broadcast contained graphical representations of unbranded odds that did not breach Section 4.1 of the Code. However Viasat accepted that the programme commentators in the TV3 coverage did refer to Bet24’s odds and therefore gave Bet24 undue prominence. Viasat told Ofcom that TV3 accepted that the commentators were wrong to refer to Bet24 without mentioning a range of alternatives and TV3 had now taken steps to ensure that this will not reoccur.

In relation to the ZTVbroadcast, Viasat said that the programme commentators did not in fact mention Bet24. References were made only to odds provided by a range of services.

Section 9.1

Viasat said that both the TV3 and ZTV broadcasts were sponsored by Bet24Poker and not Bet24 as alleged by the complainant. As a result there were no references within either broadcast to the sponsor or the sponsor’s product or service within the terms of Section 9.1 of the Code.

Decision

Section 9.1 of the Code requires that there should be no reference made in a programme to the sponsor of that programme.

Viasat stated that the sponsor of the programmes was Bet24Poker and therefore references to Bet24 were not covered by Section 9.1 of the Code. Bet24 is the name of a betting website which is divided into three areas: Poker, Casino and Live Betting. We believe that Bet24Poker therefore forms part of Bet24. It is our view that Bet24 and Bet24Poker are so inextricably linked that Bet24 can be considered to be the sponsor of both broadcasts. The audible reference to ‘Bet24’ and not ‘Bet24poker’ in the opening credits strengthens this view.

The Code, which was in force at the time of broadcast, prohibits any reference to the sponsor in a programme it is sponsoring. The inclusion in these programmes to the betting odds offered by the sponsor suggests the sponsor may have influenced the editorial content and raises questions over the broadcaster’s editorial independence. The references to Bet24 (including Bet24Poker) in both programmes were in breach of Sections 4.1 and 9.1 of the Code.

The output breached Sections 4.1 and 9.1 (content of sponsored programmes) of the Code of Programme Sponsorship.


Stupid
BBC2, 24 June 2005 , 17:00

Introduction

This children’s comedy show featured a sketch about a scout leader and his pack tracking the leader’s wife and new boyfriend, when the couple were out in the countryside for a picnic. Two viewers were concerned about the general tone of the sketch including the use of word “slapper”.

Response

The BBC said that this show worked on different levels for children of different ages; the strong element of slapstick appealed to younger children, while the depictions of dysfunctional adults attracted older children. The broadcaster felt that Stupid would primarily be of interest to viewers aged between 9 and 12. It featured some of the blunter language used by young people both to give it a contemporary sound and to contribute to the comedy. The tone of the show was that of pantomime and its fantasy elements established a clear distance from the daily experience of its viewers.

In this sketch, the BBC felt that the language used highlighted the humour of the situation, as there was a mismatch between the character of the scout leader using the language and the contemporary form of abuse. However, the broadcaster believed that “slapper” was a mild term of abuse and was not offensive.

Decision

We agree that the use of this disparaging term for women would not offend the majority of viewers in many contexts. Although the sketch was meant to ridicule the actions of the scout leader, to achieve this meant insulting his wife and her boyfriend. The boyfriend was referred to as “a fancy man” and, apart from the term “slapper”, the wife was also called “a cow”.

The ex-BSC Code (the Code in force at the time of transmission) states that, in relation to swearing and offensive language, the paramount concern of most adults is for children. The tone of this sketch meant that the language was used in an aggressive and insulting manner. Although this show may appeal to older children, it also included fantasy links between sketches featuring a ‘king-figure’ and his servant, a rat. We believe that the programme would also appeal to younger children who may not be familiar yet with this language, especially when used in such a manner.

We believe that the language used by the scout leader about his wife was not suitable in a programme specifically made for children.

The sketch was in contravention of the Code on Standards


Resolved

Charlton vs. Manchester City live football
Prem Plus, 2 April 2005 , 13:35

Introduction

During the coverage of this football match a red button icon appeared in the top right hand side of the screen. The icon was accompanied by the text "Press (the icon) to see more of the all new Ford Focus”. A viewer complained that the inclusion of the icon amounted to inappropriate commercial activity within the programme.

Response

Prem Plus is a channel operated by Sky. Sky explained that the content for each of its channels is played out in the Sky transmission centre from two separate schedules: the first contains details of the channel’s programmes, promotional material and advertisements, and the second contains information to control the electronic programme guide, channel banners and data for interactive icons and banners.

In the week before the incident, an upgrade of Sky’s play-out automation system had taken place. The icon in question was due to play out over a Ford Focus advertisement that appeared during an advertising break during half-time in the match coverage. The kick-off of the match had been delayed and, as a result, the first half of the match ended late, meaning the advertising breaks shifted. Following  the upgrade work, the play-out systems had inadvertently not been reconfigured to ensure that the two transmission schedules were synchronised resulting in the icon appearing at its pre-determined time slot, rather than being synchronised with the (delayed) start of the Ford Focus advertisement (which, in practice, appeared five minutes later than originally scheduled). As soon as the error was discovered it was remedied and no further problems were encountered.

The interactive icon's premature appearance was wholly inadvertent, it could have been removed by viewers at any time during its 29 seconds appearance on screen (by pressing back-up on the remote control), and it did not form part of the editorial content of the programme.  Although the icon briefly overlapped with the programme, it would have been readily apparent to viewers that it did not form part of it, and so would not have been confused with the actual programme. Because of this, Sky considered that the inclusion of the icon did not amount to a breach of Ofcom’s Programme Code or Rules on the Amount or Scheduling of Advertising. The only reference in the broadcast to a commercial product was on the icon itself.  There was no commercial reference actually in the programme (i.e. as part of the editorial content of the programme, for example referred to by the programme commentators/presenters).

Decision 

The Rules on the Amount or Scheduling of Advertising require that television advertising be readily recognisable as such and kept separate from other parts of the programme service.  Additionally, the Programme Code prohibits commercial products and services being promoted in programmes. 

These rules are drawn from European legislation, the Television Without Frontiers (TWF) Directive.  Article 10 of the TWF Directive requires that “Television advertising and teleshopping shall be readily recognisable as such and kept quite separate from other parts of the programme service by optical and/or acoustic means”.  In a paper issued by the European Commission on the interpretation of the Directive, the Commission states that , in accordance with the principle of separation between advertising and editorial content, for advertising using the interactive icon, the icon on which the viewer must click to access the interactive environment must be integrated into an advertisement, itself kept separate and clearly distinguishable from the editorial content. This icon may be inserted during a traditional advertising spot or an advertising spot broadcast using the split screen technique. In the latter case, prior permission must be obtained from the holder of the rights to the programme. In both cases, the advertising message will be subject to the rules on the duration of advertising.

Although the icon appeared distinguishable from the editorial content of the programme, in view of this guidance on the Directive it is clear that the icon should not have appeared in the way it did within the programme.  Because, on this occasion, the advertising appeared as a result of a genuine technical error and in view of the prompt action taken by the broadcaster to rectify this issue, we consider the matter resolved.

Complaint resolved


Streak Party
Reality TV, 23 July 2005 , 20:00

Introduction

Streak Party was a light-hearted documentary looking at the phenomenon of streaking. The programme included footage of full-frontal views of streakers and swearing (“fuck”). One viewer complained that this was inappropriate at 20:00.

Response

Reality TV said that the programme was given a post-watershed restriction and it had requested that a warning regarding strong language be transmitted. However, due to human error, this was not added to the notes on the programme, which the scheduler should have had, before deciding when to transmit it. Reality TV assured Ofcom that it was reviewing its scheduling procedures to ensure that this did not happen again.

Decision

We agree that that this programme was only suitable for post-watershed transmission. We welcome the broadcaster’s acknowledgement of the problem and, in light of the further action taken, consider the matter resolved.

Complaint resolved

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