Beat: Life on the Street
ITV1, Series 1: 29 October - 3 December 2006, 18:00.
Series 2: 27 January - 2 March 2008, 18:00
Beat: Life on the Street is an observational documentary series about the work of Police Community Support Officers (“PCSOs”) in Oxford and Lancashire.
The series was fully funded by the Home Office.
Two complainants, who became aware of the Home Office’s involvement with the series following press reports, objected that the programmes were essentially government “propaganda” and the Home Office’s relationship with the series
should have been made clear to viewers.
Rule 9.4 – a sponsor must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster.
Rule 9.5 – there must be no promotional reference to the sponsor, its name, trademark, image, activities, services or products or to any of its other direct or indirect interests. There must be no promotional generic references. Nonpromotional
references are permitted only where they are editorially justified and incidental.
Rule 9.7 - The relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored programme must be transparent.
Channel Television (“Channel TV”), which complied the programmes on behalf of ITV
Network, confirmed that the Home Office fully funded the series. The sponsorship
was arranged through the Central Office of Information (“COI”). The programmes
were made by an independent production company, TwoFour Productions.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules 9.5 and 9.7
A sponsored programme is a programme that has had some or all of its costs met by the sponsor with a view to promoting its own or another’s name, trademark, image, activities, services, products or any other direct or indirect interest.
There is no evidence to suggest that the sponsor influenced the content of the programme so as to undermine the independence of the broadcaster and, as such, we do not find the series in breach of Rule 9.4.
Ofcom judged that overall the series portrayed the PCSOs and the contribution they made to communities in a positive light. There were several elements in the programmes that contributed to this overall positive tone, including interviews with serving
officers, who talked in detail about why they enjoyed their role.
Ofcom considered that the overriding tone of the programmes was supportive and likely to leave viewers with a favourable impression of the PCSO service. Taking into account the fact that the Home Office sponsored these series, and that the PCSO service
is at least an indirect interest of the Home Office, Ofcom therefore considered that these references within the programmes were promotional, in breach of Rule 9.5.
Ofcom noted that the message displayed on screen during the credits immediately preceding the programme contained the text: Let’s Keep Crime Down, and the strapline Keep It Safe, Keep it Hidden - In Association with Beat: Life on the
Street. We considered these credits, broadcast at the start and end of each programme would have notified viewers that the programmes were sponsored. However, the text did not tell viewers who the sponsor was.
Ofcom judged that the Home Office’s role and relationship with the series, as its sponsor, was not made sufficiently clear. While a small, inconspicuous Home Office logo was displayed in the top right hand corner of the screen for a very brief
period at the end of the sponsor credits, Ofcom considered that the sponsorship arrangement was not made transparent since the size of its text and the brevity of the logo’s appearance on screen meant it was likely to have been missed by viewers.
In Ofcom’s view, the relationship between the sponsored programme and the Home Office’s role as its sponsor was therefore not made transparent to the audience, in breach of Rule 9.7.