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Hope FM Business Show breach

Bournemouth community radio station Hope FM has had a breach recorded against its licence by Ofcom for failing to make clear a commercial arrangement with a studio guest.

The regulator looked into the appearance of an interviewee on the station's Business Show after a complainant said they weren't sure from listening to the programme whether there was any financial gain to the station from the feature.

The Business Show airs twice weekly and includes several interviews with representatives of different businesses based in the Bournemouth area. The complaint followed the show on 10 March 2011 when it featured a representative of a web-based recruitment agency called Poole Together. The interview included promotional material about what the business does, prices for services offered, numbers of visitors to the website and contact information for the business. The conversation also included general discussion around employment and was interspersed with music.

Hope FM confirmed to Ofcom that the business had been featured in return for payment but said that the programme was "clearly and appropriately signalled as being commercial in nature, and therefore not part of 'normal' programming." They added that they considered it was "completely transparent with listeners as to the exact nature of the content of the show."

In response Ofcom noted that, while the change of rules in December now allows radio broadcasters to promote brands, products and services in programming, stations are still required to make clear to the audience that such programming is part of a commercial arrangement.

"Rule 10.1 of the Code requires that programming that is subject to a commercial arrangement is appropriately signalled to the audience. This ensures that listeners are protected from surreptitious advertising," say Ofcom.

In this case, Ofcom noted that no reference was made in this programming to any commercial arrangement between Hope FM and Poole Together and decided that the programme's content or title were not sufficient to meet the requirements of Rule 10.1.

Ofcom also pointed out that a separate commercial arrangement was pointed out between Hope FM and SceneOne magazine, the programme sponsor, in the form of a produced credit. (The Hope FM
Business Show is brought to you by SceneOne magazine – your free guide to what's happening in the local theatre scene").

The regulator's final decision, published in this week's Broadcast Bulletin, concludes that listeners were "unlikely to consider that the programme content was subject to any other commercial arrangement(s), as Hope FM had failed to provide appropriate signalling of this fact.". A breach of the station's licence has been recorded as a result.

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