Global Radio has apologised to Ofcom and reminded presenter James O’Brien and all LBC producers not to talk about elections whilst polling stations are open.
LBC has been found in breach by the regulator after the weekday daytime presenter made reference to UKIP during his programme on polling day, suggesting the party was “poised to win a seat”.
James didn’t actually mention UKIP by name, but both the station and Ofcom agreed it wasn’t hard to work out which party his was talking about. James O’Brien said: “We, of course, are living in a country where an anti-immigration party is poised to win a seat in a constituency where there aren’t any immigrants.”
Ofcom said that the references to a “party” which was “poised to win a seat” in the by-election taking place in Clacton, would have been clearly understood by listeners as a reference to UKIP.
Rule 6.4 of the broadcast code requires that discussion and analysis of election issues must finish when the polls open at 7am. This programme however was broadcast after the polls had opened and prior to the polls closing at 10pm.
LBC said that it has “detailed plans” in place for the coverage of elections including that: “no mention of an election should take place from midnight on the morning of the poll”. However, the Licensee said that during this programme: “James O’Brien did make a passing reference to UKIP”. It added that the presenter had been discussing, the extremist organisation, ISIS and: “it was in the midst of this discussion that he made the reference to UKIP and its anticipated victory in Clacton”. LBC further added that: “It was an incidental reference, made briefly and intended merely as an observation before James returned to the main talking point, which concerned what to do about ISIS”.
LBC accepted that what James O’Brien did say was: “a regrettable and inexcusable error”.
In conclusion, the Licensee said it had reminded the presenter and all LBC producers of their obligations under Section Six of the Code and that James O’Brien had apologised for his “mistake” in this case.
Ofcom added: “We considered that James O’Brien’s comments clearly constituted discussion and analysis of the Clacton by-election, and Rule 6.4 therefore applied.” In reaching its Decision, Ofcom took into account the presenter’s apology, LBC’s acknowledgement, and the Licensee had taken steps to improve compliance in this area.
But the regulator still decided this was a clear breach of Rule 6.4 following four different complaints.