Wiltshire radio station Total Star has been found in breach of Ofcom rules for promoting products in programming for a second time.
The regulator found that an on-air competition run in early October didn't make clear the relationship between the station and the sponsor. It follows a breach recorded in November for a broadcast in August that promoted offers and products during programming.
In today's Broadcast Bulletin, Ofcom highlight a competition run on 4 October 2010 on the Howard Taylor at Breakfast show on the Total Star station that covers Bath, Swindon and Warminster.
A listener was concerned about the presenter's endorsement of the competition's sponsor, Fish Brothers Renault. At the time, previous rules applied on product placement in radio programming – these [link=http://radiotoday.co.uk/news.php?extend.6578.2]have since been updated[/link].
The presenter trailed ahead to the competition by saying:
[blockquote]"Total Star, Howard Taylor at Breakfast. Now, at Fish Brothers Renault they have gone back to the nineties with low, low prices on the Laguna, Twingo and Megane. And the fantastic Clio is on sale at the same price it was in the early 1990s as well. Check that out. You can find out more at our website, Total Star dot co dot UK. We’re giving you the chance to win some totally cool Renault Sport merchandise, after nine thirty this morning. As we go back to the nineties, I’m going to play you two nineties songs, with a little bit of information about the particular year, and if you can identify the year – simple as that – then the chances are, you could be walking away with the merchandise. You just have to text me, it’s as simple as that…"
When the presenter introduced the broadcast competition, later in the programme, he said:
[blockquote]"Now, all this week, we’re giving you the chance to win, with Fish Brothers Renault, some pretty cool Renault Sport merchandise. They’ve gone back to the nineties and there are low, low prices on the Laguna, Twingo and Megane. And the fantastic Clio is on sale at the same price as it was in the early 1990s. That is great value. Car for today, at yesterday’s price – See what they’ve done there Although to be fair, there are limited stocks and once they’ve gone – It’s all going down at Fish Brothers Renault, Paddington Drive, in Swindon, and, this morning we are giving you a chance to win the merchandise. All you’ve got to do, is identify from the next two songs, and a little bit of information that I throw in between, the year in which these songs were hits, alright? It’s a nineties year. There’s two of ’em, both from one year. What is it?"[/blockquote]
Ofcom asked Total Star for its comments concerning both the competition feature and the trail, with regard their Code rules which state that sponsors mustn't influence the content or scheduling of a programme if it impairs the editorial independence of the broadcaster; and that there shouldn't be promotional reference to the sponsor, its name, services or product. They also asked the stations for comments about the trail, since the Code says that sponsorships must be clearly identified as such and the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored programme must be transparent.
In response, Total Star apologised, admitting that "on this occasion we did get it wrong", adding that the presenter was "a little overenthusiastic with his comments…" The station said that the comments had not been made in return for payment or other valuable consideration, adding that the presenter's intentions had been "in good faith".
Total Star also say they've put a training programme in place for presenters, to refresh their understanding of Ofcom's expectations and rules.
Ofcom said that the information supplied to them suggested that the references to the car dealer had not impaired the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster so Total Star was not in breach of Rule 9.4 of the Code in place at the time.
However, Rule 9.5 of the Code prohibited any 'promotional reference to the sponsor, its name, services, or products…' in the relevant sponsored programming. In this instance, the presenter promoted Fish Brothers Renault‟s special offers (i.e. the sponsor and its products) in both the sponsored competition feature and its trail, which were both therefore in breach of Rule 9.5.
Total Star was also found in breach of Rules 9.6 and 9.7 of the Code because listeners weren't told until later in the programme (in the form of a produced sponsor credit) that there was a sponsorship arrangement in place between the station and the car dealer, so the commercial relationship wasn't transparent.
Back in November we told you about a [link=http://radiotoday.co.uk/news.php?extend.6486.2]previous breach for Total Star[/link] when a presenter had promoted exclusive offers by local businesses during programming.
In recording the breach against the licence, Ofcom said: "We welcome the action taken by the broadcaster in this instance to avoid recurrence. However, Ofcom notes that content broadcast by Total Star was recently found in breach of the Code as it involved the promotion of products and services in programming. Ofcom is therefore concerned that products were promoted in programming on this second occasion."
They added:"While the regulation of commercial communications in radio programming was revised significantly on 20 December 2010, Ofcom expects Total Star to ensure that compliance issues do not arise under the new Section Ten (Radio) of the Code."