A UK community radio station aired what might as well have been an advertisement for a supermarket chain but without disclosure. The news content appeared to be advertising and that confusion prompted a complaint to the UK broadcast regulator OfCom.
The radio station, Radio St Austell Bay, aired a bulletin by a news reader on Aug. 12 that promoted a local supermarket chain’s new sandwich, describing the item and the pricing.
While Radio St Austell Bay told OfCom it wasn’t an advertisement, OfCom looked into the matter because of a broadcasting rule about commercials in news reports. That rule states:
“No commercial reference, or material that implies a commercial
arrangement, is permitted in or around news bulletins or news desk
Radio St Austell Bay defended its “one off incident,” explaining the newsreader was a volunteer who thought it was newsworthy and that the station didn’t get paid.
However, OfCom rejected the defense and ruled that the station broke guideines.
“Given the clearly promotional nature of this content, Ofcom considered that listeners were likely to have assumed a commercial arrangement was in place,” OfCom ruled. “We took into account the Licensee’s explanation that this had been broadcast due to a ‘lapse in judgement’ by the presenter, and that it regularly reminds its presenters about the station’s obligation to comply with the Code. However, Ofcom’s Decision is that the material broadcast in this news bulletin implied a commercial arrangement, in breach.”
iMediaEthics has written to the station for its response to the ruling and to ask what steps it has taken to prevent repeat incidents.
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