Posts Tagged ‘Ofcom’

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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.

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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.

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Ofcom logoEffective from 3 April 2017, Ofcom has become the BBC’s first external TV censor.The BBC Trust has therefore ceased to be. The remaining governance functions carried out by the BBC Trust will move to the new BBC unitary board.

Ofcom’s proposals

Programmes made for UK audiences: The BBC’s spending on brand new UK commissioned programmes fell 30% in real-terms between 2004 and 2015. Therefore, we are proposing quotas for first-run UK originations programmes to be shown on BBC One, BBC Two, CBeebies and CBBC.

Under our plans, three quarters of all programme hours on the BBC’s most popular TV channels should be original productions, commissioned for UK audiences. During peak viewing time 203 from 6pm to 10.30pm 203 at least 90% of programmes on BBC Two should be original, matching the current requirement for BBC One (see table below).

News and current affairs: We plan to increase the previous requirements for news and current affairs 203 including for BBC One and BBC Two 203 where they have been exceeded, to safeguard this important genre. During peak listening periods, Radio 2 would be required, for the first time, to air at least three hours of news and current affairs per week, and Radio 1 to broadcast an extended news bulletin in peak-time listening each weekday. Neither station currently has these obligations during peak listening hours.

Music: The BBC plays a unique role in showcasing musical talent and genres to people across the country. Our rules would mean a significant proportion of the new music played by Radio 1 and Radio 2 should be from new and emerging UK artists. Radio 3 should continue to play a central role in supporting the UK’s classical music scene, commissioning at least 25 new musical works each year, and developing relationships with non-BBC UK orchestras, opera companies and festivals.

Arts and learning: Our plans would mean that BBC One and BBC Two would have tougher requirements for showing arts, music and religious programmes, including new requirements to show some during peak viewing times.

Children: New rules would require CBBC to show at least 400 hours 203 and CBeebies at least 100 hours 203 of brand new UK commissioned programming each year. CBeebies would have to provide content in a number of genres that support pre-school children’s learning.

Sport: The BBC should provide distinctive sports coverage for fans in all the UK’s nations. Ofcom’s research found that people want the BBC to cover a wide range of sports. So we will require Radio 5 Live to provide live commentary, news and programmes covering at least 20 sports, to help support those that are not getting the attention they deserve.

Reflecting the whole UK: Ofcom wants all parts of the UK to be reflected, and invested in, by the BBC. So we are introducing minimum quotas for each UK nation. This means the BBC must spend the same on programmes, per head, in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as ensuring that at least half of all programmes shown nationally and produced in the UK are made outside of London.

Also, we will soon review our guidance on programmes made outside London, to ensure these productions make a genuine contribution to the creative economies of the UK’s nations and regions, which could include greater programme making or investment in these areas.

There would be a new Diversity Code of Practice to set how the BBC will commission programmes that authentically portray the whole UK population. And the BBC will have to report annually on how it has reflected, represented and served the diverse communities of the whole UK 203 focusing on age, gender, disability and race, among other characteristics.

High programme standards: To hold the BBC’s programmes to the highest standards, Ofcom has today published updates to the Broadcasting Code 203 the rulebook for UK broadcasters which sets standards for the content of programmes. Today’s changes will see that, for the first time, the Code applies in full to BBC broadcasting services and the iPlayer.

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cant payCan’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!
Channel 5, 28 September 2016, 21:00

Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away! is an observational documentary series that follows the work of High Court Enforcement Agents ( HCEAs ).

Ofcom received three complaints about the frequent use of offensive language broadcast just after the watershed which, the complainants considered was not appropriate.

The pre-programme information provided by the continuity announcer referred to: 206highly offensive language in Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away! Then, following the sponsorship credit, a warning was shown with a voiceover stating: Be prepared for scenes of intense aggression and HIGHLY [emphasis in the original] offensive language from the very start and throughout, which may distress some viewers .

The first story in this episode, broadcast from 21:02, featured two HCEAs attempting to recover £5,000 from a man who requested that they should leave his property. From approximately 21:04, and for about three minutes, 15 instances of the most offensive language were used, which consisted of 14 instances of the word fuck (and variations of it) and one instance of the word cunt .

Ofcom considered Rule 1.6 of the Code:

The transmission to more adult material must not be unduly abrupt at the watershed206For television, the strongest material should appear later in the schedule.

Channel 5 explained that its usual approach to ensure compliance with Rule 1.6 was that there should be no offensive language broadcast in the first seven minutes of a programme broadcast at 21:00 to ensure that the transition to more adult material after the watershed was not too abrupt.

However, occasionally, and with regard to this particular episode, the Licensee explained that the editorial requirements of the programme meant that this position was varied. It said that it had permitted the offensive language on this occasion because without it, the severity and volatility of the situation and the difficulties experienced by the HCEAs in carrying out their duties would have been unclear and incomprehensible to viewers. Channel 5 said that its decision to include the most offensive language soon after the watershed was not taken lightly and that it had been referred up to the highest levels of Channel 5 .

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 1.6

We acknowledged that there was a clear editorial context for the inclusion of the offensive language in the programme 203 to illustrate the type of challenging behaviour encountered by HCEAs in the course of their work. However, in Ofcom’s view, this in itself did not provide sufficient editorial justification for this material to be broadcast at the very beginning of the programme soon after the watershed. We took the view that, even taking account of the editorial context and the strongly worded and voiced warning, it was still unlikely that viewers would have expected the frequent use of the most offensive language in an aggressive and confrontational manner at such a short time after the watershed on a public service channel like Channel 5.

We concluded that the programme was in breach of Rule 1.6.

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Ofcom logoOn 1 January 2016, Video on Demand censor ATVOD was sacked and Ofcom became the sole regulator for on-demand programme services ( ODPS ) under Part 4A of the Communications Act 2003 (the Act ).In this document, we are consulting on a new regulatory fees regime under section 368NA of the Act, to apply from the 2017/18 financial year onwards. Our preferred proposal is to adopt a fees structure that shares the costs of regulating ODPS only between the largest providers.

We have also provided an estimate of the 2017/18 fee that would be sufficient to meet, but not exceed, the likely cost of Ofcom carrying out the relevant functions in the financial year 2017/18.

Ofcom sets out what VoD companies had to pay under the year of ATVOD:

  • (a) ATVOD’s estimated costs for the year were just over £487,000 and the fees collected were just over £488,000.
  • (b) The 40 largest ODPS providers each paid over £5,000 and accounted for over 93% of fees.
  • (c) ATVOD differentiated between those in the largest group, with the largest Super A providers paying £10,893 each for single outlet services and £14,135 for multiple outlet services (with a group cap available where there were multiple providers in one corporate group). A Rate providers paid £5,010 for single outlet services and £6,502 for multiple outlet services.
  • (d) None of the remaining 77 providers (the long tail ) paid more than £815, and 40 of these paid £204 or less. These providers accounted, in total, for under 7% of fees.

By contrast, Ofcom’s estimate of estimated costs is £114,000 and this will be raised from Video on Demand companies as follows:

  • Companies with total turnover greater than 50 million: £4146
  • Companies with total turnover 10 to 50 million: £2073
  • Companies with total turnover less than 10 million: no charge

Ofcom noted that a proportionally smaller charge for the small companies may not be cost effective to collect and may discourage companies from registering for censorship either by illegal avoidance or by moving offshore.

A consultation on this preferred option and several others is open until 29th March 2017.

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Ofcom logoThe BBC is refusing an order to pay £9 million a year to the TV censor Ofcom, in a behind-the-scenes row over the cost of the corporation’s new censorship regime.

Ofcom, which will take on responsibility for censoring the BBC in April, is locked in a private battle after warning BBC executives that it wants to appoint double the number of staff the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s current ruling body, currently employs to censor the broadcaster.

The move will add more than £5 million to the regulatory bill currently footed by the licence fee payer, roughly equivalent to what the BBC spends on a six-part drama series .

The corporation is understood to have appealed to Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, to force Ofcom to reduce its fees. Sue Owen, permanent secretary at the DCMS, is understood to have written to Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, calling on her to cut the planned fees, but White is said to have argued that the proposed charges are ‘reasonable’.

The corporation is said to be particularly annoyed that Ofcom has demanded £6.5 million for the past financial year, which covers a period before the broadcaster assumes its full regulatory duties.

Ofcom insists that it will have a more wide-ranging role than the Trust, and will have to hold the BBC to account on new political correctness issues such as diversity targets.

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tell me anotherTell Me Another
Talking Pictures TV, 24 August 2016, 19:00

Talking Pictures TV is an entertainment channel broadcasting classic films and archive programmes.

Tell Me Another was a talk show originally broadcast between 1976 and 1979 in which stars of the 1960s and 70s recalled personal anecdotes of their experiences in show business.

A complainant alerted Ofcom to the use of the word coon , which they found offensive.

The word featured in an anecdote told by the comedian and singer Joan Turner when describing her first professional appearance on stage at the age of 14 in a theatre in east London in 1937. She described how the dancing girls in the troupe used to tan their legs: in those days the girls didn’t wear tights…they used to make their legs up with what they call ‘wet white’, but it was actually brown . She told how, because her legs were cold and very pale, she borrowed wet white from a dancer and used it to darken her legs and face. Her booking agent however responded by saying, Take that bloody stuff off. You look like a bloody chocolate coloured coon… put that on again, you’re not coming on! .

Ofcom considered Rules:

  • Rule 1.14: The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed .

  • 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…discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of…race) .

Talking Pictures TV said that the word complained about occurred in an episode originally broadcast in ITV regions at 18:30 in 1978 and later. It said while we don’t wish to defend the use of the term ‘coon’, we recognise that this was part of the lexicon of the era when the series was first broadcast .

The Licensee pointed out that the word coon was included for the first time only in Ofcom research on offensive language published on 30 September 20161 – a date after the episode of Tell Me Another was broadcast. Previous Ofcom research, including that of 2012 did not assess the word coon .

Talking Pictures said as a result of this case it had stopped broadcasts of this particular episode of Tell Me Another, and also reviewed the whole series against Ofcom’s 2016 offensive language research, to ensure it contained no language that raised concerns. It said it had also increased the frequency of warnings before archive movies and TV shows to forewarn viewers of outdated language.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules 1.14 and 2.3

In our view it was not the interviewee’s intention to be discriminatory towards an ethnic minority or to cause offence. However, we considered that the use of the phrase bloody chocolate coloured coon clearly conveyed a negative reaction by the booking agent to Ms Turner’s skin colour. Even though the phrase was not directed at anyone from an ethnic minority or used in an aggressive manner, it also would have been likely to have been seen by viewers as conveying a discriminatory and racist attitude on the part of the booking agent. These factors, in our view, would have been likely to increase the potential level of offence and on balance made the use of these words inconsistent with viewers’ expectations for this programme on this channel at this time, and particularly for any who may have come across this material unawares.

We acknowledged that the language was broadcast in the context of a comedy entertainment programme made in the 1970s which contained what was intended to be a comic anecdote about comments made in 1937. However, this offensive language (as acknowledged by the Licensee) was broadcast to viewers with no warning beforehand alerting them to potentially offensive language, and without any editorial voice, commentary or other context to mitigate sufficiently the potential offence. We did not consider the fact that the programme had been made many years previously or that the anecdote referred to an earlier era, when attitudes were different, provided sufficient context in this case. In particular, we took into account that this programme was broadcast before the watershed with a potential for children to be in the viewing audience, who would not necessarily have been aware of historical differences in attitudes to offensive language.

Given all these factors, in this case we considered the word coon was an example of the most offensive language broadcast before the watershed in breach of Rule 1.14.