Sky News aired graphic video footage of a man being hit by a car without warning viewers of the graphic nature of the footage. Doing so broke the UK broadcast regulator OfCom’s guidelines.
The footage from CCTV showed a man being hit “violently” by the car. “The CCTV footage clearly showed from three different angles the pedestrian being run over in a violent hit and run accident,” OfCom explained. “The pedestrian was depicted being hit with such force by the car that he was thrown high into the air and carried for some distance by the car before he fell to the road.”
An OfCom spokesperson told iMediaEthics,
“Sky News breached our broadcasting rules because it aired a CCTV clip before the watershed which contained graphic and violent images of a man being hit by a car in a ‘hit-and-run’ incident.
“We found these scenes to be stronger than audiences would have expected in a broadcast at this time of day, and no information or warning was broadcast.”
While there was no warning, or sound, OfCom explained in its ruling report that the footage was problematic.
“In our view the lack of any sound of the car hitting the pedestrian helped reduce some of the impact of the footage on viewers, but the absence of any explanation of the nature of the injuries sustained or whether the victim had survived, exacerbated the shocking nature of the footage.”
Sky News told OfCom it got the footage from the Sussex Police, who wanted to determine the identity of the hit-and-run driver.
Sky News said the footage was in the public interest and “not overly graphic.” Sky News also said, “Due to a highly unusual technical error in the gallery, the strap with the text information pointing to the mobile platform and providing appropriate context [for the CCTV footage] did not appear on screen”.
“Appropriate context should have been provided for editorial reasons as well as for the benefit of our viewers,” Sky News added, noting it reminded staff to make sure context is included moving forward. Sky News commented that given that it’s a news channel, children likely wouldn’t have seen the graphic footage.
Further, OfCom decided the footage “was clearly distressing and therefore unsuitable for children” because if they saw the footage they might have thought the pedestrian was killed.
“As detailed above and for the same reasons that the broadcast of the CCTV footage was unsuitable for children, Ofcom considered that the material was capable of causing offence to viewers in general,” OfCom ruled.
“Ofcom’s view to show this CCTV footage without commentary, explanation or warning exceeded audience expectations for this news channel broadcasting at this time,” OfCom added.
iMediaEthics has written to Sky News.
UPDATED 4/25/206 9:52 AM EST With OfCom statement