Ofcom Watch

 2017: July-Sept



  Pleading expediency...

Ofcom introduces discounted fines for censorship rule breakers who admit their guilt


Link Here 15th September 2017
Ofcom logoTV and internet censors Ofcom have introduced the concept of reduced fines for those censorship rule breakers who admit their guilt. Ofcom explains:

On 28 June 2017, following consultation, we published new Enforcement guidelines for regulatory investigations. Among other things, these documents set out a new process for settlement of an investigation falling within the scope of the Guidelines and the Procedures. Settlement is a voluntary process in which the regulated body admits it has breached relevant regulatory requirements and accepts that the remainder of the investigation will follow a streamlined administrative procedure. In successful settlement cases, Ofcom will apply a discount to the level of the penalty in light of the resource savings involved in following a streamlined administrative procedure.

 

  Tempers flare...

TV censor whinges about Russell Brand's radio banter about a Elvis impersonator having sex in costume


Link Here 30th August 2017  full story: Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross...Winding up Andrew Sachs and Voluptua

russell brand radio xRussell Brand
Radio X, 28 May 2017, 11:00

Radio X is a National DAB radio station providing an alternative music service for the 15-34s.

Russell Brand is a weekly programme broadcast between 11:00 and 13:00 on Sundays. The programme on 28 May 2017 was pre-recorded.

Ofcom received a complaint about sexual content during and immediately following a conversation between Russell Brand, Matt Morgan (the programme’s co-host on 28 May 2017) and Mr Gee (the programme’s resident poet) in the studio, and an Elvis Presley tribute artist (‘Guest’), who they had contacted on the phone. The complainant considered the exchanges unsuitable for broadcast when children were listening.

The unscripted conversation included the following:

Brand: “Have you ever had sex as Elvis?”.
...
Guest: “I’ve done it without the jump suit, but I have kept the cape on”.
Brand: “That’s good, that’s how to do it. You can’t have sex with a jump suit on”.
Morgan: “Did you do the voice?”
Guest: “Well the only difficulty with that is they’re studded, you see, and they get very spikey and so they can cut you in places that you wouldn’t imagine”.
Brand: “I’m, I’m imagining them, James!”
Guest: “And if you’re on top of somebody, you know…”.
Brand: “Very, er, you’re a bit of a brutal lover there, James!”
Guest: “Well, yes, I am, especially when I’m covered in Rhinestones!”
Brand: “Phwoar, that’s the way to do it!”
...

Ofcom considered:

  • Rule 1.3: “Children must…be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them”.

  • Rule 1.5 “Radio broadcasters must have particular regard to times when children are particularly likely to be listening”.

Ofcom decision: Breach of rules 1.3 and 1.5

Ofcom first considered whether the material in this case was unsuitable for children.

The presenter asked Mr Burrell, the Elvis Presley tribute artist, whether he had ever had sex as Elvis. He responded by joking that he had kept his cape on, but not his studded jump suit, as “they get very spikey and so they can cut you in places that you wouldn’t imagine”. After a brief studio reaction, the interview ended but was followed up by Mr Gee sharing an anecdote about Elvis Presley, which he had seen in a documentary. He claimed that the singer had left a hotel with a friend after having just met a prostitute, and told him that “she gives tremendous head, tremendous head”.

Ofcom took into account Global’s view that Radio X targeted an ‘alternative’ audience and “maintains a distinction from other mainstream stations”, with “edgier content in [Russell Brand’s] show than on family-orientated pop music stations”. Nevertheless, we did not consider the above was an appropriate topic of discussion for younger listeners and, in our view, it was unsuitable for children.

Ofcom then considered whether the broadcaster had had particular regard to times when children were particularly likely to be listening.

We took into account the Licensee’s acknowledgement, “in hindsight … that some of the further comments that followed the initial conversation – although brief – strayed into more mature themes”. Ofcom considered that Global should have taken this into account when editing the pre-recorded programme.

It is Ofcom’s view that Global had not had particular regard to times when children were likely to be listening, in breach of Rule 1.5.

Breaches of Rules 1.3 and 1.5

 

 Extract: Britain's Got a Talent for Whingeing...

UK's top 10 TV programmes as judged by the number of complaints to Ofcom


Link Here 19th August 2017
britains got talentTV censor Ofcom has provided Trusted Reviews with figures that reveal which television items have received the most viewer complaints over the past year:

10. Benidorm (ITV) -- 137 complaints

9. Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls (Channel 4) -- 153 complaints

8. Good Morning Britain (ITV) -- 181 complaints

7. Sky News (Sky News) -- 190 complaints

6. Emmerdale (ITV) -- 275 complaints

5. Coronation Street (ITV) -- 303 complaints

4. Comic Relief (BBC 1) -- 340 complaints

3. Emmerdale (ITV) -- 448 complaints

2. Coronation Street (ITV) -- 473 complaints

1. Britain's Got Talent (ITV) -- 663 complaints

... Read the full article from trustedreviews.com

 

 Update: Strong Words...

Ofcom fine Kanshi Radio over Sikh song with lyrics derogatory to other religions


Link Here 18th August 2017  full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
kanshi radio logoPinky Pinky
Kanshi Radio Limited, 30 June 2016, 01:59 and 1 September 2016, 00:05

Kanshi Radio is a satellite radio station providing speech and music programmes for the Asian community in the UK.

This sanction was in relation to the broadcast of a song, Pinky Pinky, which was in Punjabi and lasted approximately 11 minutes. The song contained highly offensive language and aggressively pejorative references to the Muslim community, and Muslim women in particular. It also contained well known sacred Islamic phrases, interspersed with offensive terms, gunshots and sexualised noises.

Ofcom found that the programme breached Rules:

  • Rule 2.1: “Generally accepted standards must be applied to the content of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/ or offensive material.”
  • Rule 2.3: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context (…). Such material may include, but is not limited to offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexual orientation). Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.”
  • Rule 3.2: Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television and radio programmes except where it is justified by the context.
  • Rule 3.3: Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services except where it is justified by the context.

Ofcom published its decision on these breaches on 5 December 2016 in issue 318 of the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin. Ofcom gave examples from the sonly lyrics eg:

Your sister's cunt, Oi, your sister's cunt, let me fuck your mother's cunt. Let me fuck your sister, come over here and let me give you some Sikh cock. Allahu Akbar motherfucker.

In Ofcom's view the breaches were serious and we therefore considered the imposition of a statutory sanction in this case.

In accordance with Ofcom's penalty guidelines, Ofcom decided that it was appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances to impose a financial penalty of £17,500 on the Licensee

 

  In for a long hunt...

A spat between the Countryside Alliance and the BBC reveals that there could be a lengthy BBC complaints process before complaints reach Ofcom for final arbitration


Link Here 13th August 2017

BBC logoThe BBC is currently overhauling its complaints system after Ofcom took over censorship duties in April, replacing the BBC Trust. However there is still a part of the process where viewers have to complain to the BBC first before seeking recourse with Ofcom.

The Countryside Alliance has clashed with BBC bosses over the new framework which the group believes does not improve the process and only allows viewers to go to Ofcom after a three stage process. In a letter to the corporation, Tim Bonner, the alliance's chief executive, said this process could take several months and urged a rethink. He wrote:

Given the timescales for responding, it is likely that it could take several months before a complaint could be seen by Ofcom if the complainant were unhappy with the responses received from the BBC. We are not satisfied that this provides the expected level of oversight which Ofcom was intended to have in the new Charter.

The Countryside Alliance, a group lobbying for hunting and shooting, previously came off worse when complaining that Springwatch presenter Chris Packham referred to them as the 'Nasty Brigade' in a BBC magazine article. Presumably they feel that when they did not get what they wanted from the BBC Trust then they would like to give Ofcom a shot.

Bonner said that the alliance had submitted a number of complaints to the BBC and BBC Trust over the past 18 months which have not been upheld.  He added:

We would have welcomed the opportunity to pursue our complaints with Ofcom at the earliest possible opportunity in order for an external regulator to review the complaints independently.

The BBC's royal charter specifically allows the BBC to try to try to resolve complaints in the first instance before they are passed to Ofcom.

 

 Update: Bad Iman...

Ofcom closes Iman FM for condoning, promoting and encouraging violent behaviour towards non-Muslim people


Link Here 10th August 2017  full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check

imam fm logoNotice of Licence Revocation
Iman Media UK Limited

Iman FM is a community radio station broadcasting to the Muslim community in Sheffield and the surrounding areas. The licence for this service is held by Iman Media UK Limited.

This revocation concerns the broadcast of a number of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki throughout the holy month of Ramadan. In breach decisions published on 5 July 2017 and 27 July 20174, Ofcom found that the broadcast of the lectures breached a number of rules including Rule 3.1 of the Code:

Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services.

Ofcom considered the breaches of Rule 3.1 to be extremely serious.  Ofcom wrote in the Complaints Bulletin:

In  Ofcom's view the cumulative effect was to condone, promote and encourage violent behaviour towards non-Muslim people. Further, the lectures appeared to link violent acts of the past with actions that might potentially be taken today. Ofcom took the view that the content therefore amounted to a call to action which was likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder.

It is also our view the material amounted to hate speech, as it was both abusive and derogatory towards non-Muslim people, and in particular, Jewish people. In our view, this content had clear potential to be highly offensive

Under section 111B of the Broadcasting Act 1990, in certain circumstances Ofcom may suspend a licence if the licence holder has broadcast material likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime or lead to disorder. After considering the Licensee’s representations, Ofcom may then revoke the licence if it is satisfied it is necessary in the public interest to do so.

Ofcom served a suspension notice on the Licensee on 4 July 2017.

In Ofcom’s view the contraventions of the Code and the Licensee’s compliance failures were so extremely serious, and the Licensee’s conduct was so extremely reckless, that we had no confidence that the Licensee would be capable of complying with its licence conditions or that similar breaches would be prevented in the future. On this basis, in Ofcom’s view it was necessary in the public interest to revoke the licence and proportionate to decide that these breaches and failures justified the revocation.

Ofcom also considered that the Licensee’s failures rendered it unfit to hold a broadcast licence.

 

  Declining complaints about taste and decency on TV...

Ofcom reports on UK audience attitudes to the broadcast media


Link Here 7th July 2017

Ofcom logoOfcom has published an annual report exploring UK adults' attitudes and opinions towards television and radio broadcasting, and related areas such as programme standards, advertising and regulation. It summarises the findings set out in a series of charts.

The research findings from Ofcom's Media Tracker study provide a valuable source of information on consumers' attitudes, and help inform Ofcom's work on broadcasting standards.

Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to draw up, and from time to time revise, a Code for television and radio services, covering programme standards. This includes the protection of under-18s, the application of generally accepted standards to provide adequate protection from the inclusion of harmful or offensive material, sponsorship, product placement in television programmes, and fairness and privacy.

Ofcom recognises that people's views on what are generally accepted standards are subject to change over time, and so should be explored by ongoing consumer research. This report is one of a range of sources that Ofcom uses in undertaking its broadcasting standards duties.

 

 Update: Fighting terrorism...

Ofcom imposes large fine for Afghanistan channel that glorified terrorism


Link Here 7th July 2017  full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
atn logoOn 20 July 2016, Ariana International broadcast a news item which featured a video produced by an individual, Muhammad Riyad, before he carried out a terrorist attack on a train in Germany where he injured five people. Ofcom wrote:

Ariana International is a general entertainment channel originating from Afghanistan, and broadcast by satellite in the UK.

On 20 July 2016, the Licensee broadcast a news item which featured a video produced by an individual, Muhammad Riyad, before he carried out an attack on a train in Germany where he injured five people.

In the video, Muhammad Riyad stated that he was a "Mujahid [holy warrior] of Islamic State". He also stated his and ISIL's intentions to carry out acts of extreme violence against members of the public and his words could be interpreted as being a direct call to action to members of the Muslim community to join ISIL and to commit violence, up to, and including murder, against members of the police and the army in the West.

The news item made clear that "Daish" have now accepted that this young man [i.e. Mr Riyad] was one of their followers". In addition, it has bee n widely reported that several individuals, such as Muhammad Riyad, have been inspired to carry out acts of violence in the name of ISIL.

Ofcom's Executive found that material in the Ariana News programme breached Rules 2.3, 3.1 and 3.2 of the Code.

Rule 3.1: Material likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services.

Rule 3.2: Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television and radio programmes except where it is justified by the context.

Ofcom's Decision is that the appropriate sanction should be a financial penalty of £200,000. Ofcom also considers that the Licensee should be directed to broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings, on a date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom.