Station in breach over ‘live’ claim
Community radio station Somer Valley FM has had a breach recorded against its licence by Ofcom after a request show asked listeners to pick songs even though it wasn’t being broadcast live.
The station which covers the Norton, Radstock and Wandsdyke areas of Somerset says no-one had actually text in during the programme and has offered an apology for inadvertently misleading listeners.
Ofcom received complaints from two listeners who had discovered that the Jukebox Hour on 28 February 2011 at 5pm had been recorded prior to broadcast but the presenter was still inviting listeners for song requests. One of the complainants said they’d called the station to speak to the station manager (also the presenter of the show) but were told that he was on leave and unable to take the call.
Ofcom sought the comments of the station, under Rule 2.2 of their Broadcast Code which stipulates that ‘factual programmes or items or portrayal of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience.’
Somer Valley FM said listeners were able to contact programmes via email, Facebook and text message charged at the standard rate. The station said that the presenter had become ‘unexpectedly absent’ and although the previous presenter had ‘alluded to the fact’ that the Jukebox presenter wasn’t going to be live, it hadn’t been stated within the pre-recorded programme itself. They said that they had intended to carry over any listener requests to the next live edition but didn’t inform listeners of this fact, and added that no text message requests were received during the broadcast in question.
Ofcom says that Somer Valley FM offered its ‘unreserved’ apologies that it ‘inadvertently may have misled the listener’ and said that as a result of the incident it has tightened its procedures to ensure that listeners of pre-recorded shows ‘will be fully aware that any requests will be carried over to another programme.’ Additionally, it has instructed presenters to make clear during appeals for requests that should the station be unable to fulfil requests during the current show, they will be carried over to the next edition.
Ofcom decided to issue a breach of licence because they were concerned that the programme ‘repeatedly gave the impression that it was being broadcast live’ and that four invitations to make requests by text message were made during the hour-long show. The regulator also cited the following examples of presenter links from a recording of the show:
“Up and running, live at 5. Somer Valley’s Jukebox Hour. Good to have your company.”
“Treat me as a jukebox. What would you like on the dancefloor this evening? Open for negotiation.”
“Good evening to Karl…you’re saying you’re enjoying the show as always. Could I play a Doors track?”
“I’ve just nipped downstairs, right, to go and see who’s texted in and all that kind of caper, for the Jukebox Hour.”
The report in today’s Broadcast Bulletin states: “Ofcom considered that listeners were likely to have perceived that the programme was being broadcast live and that if they requested songs, these would be played. However, because the programme had already been recorded, there was no possibility that requested songs could be played during the programme’s transmission.”
Ofcom noted that no financial loss was incurred by listeners in this case but added that “presenting a pre-recorded programme that invited audience participation in this way nevertheless risked a breach of listeners’ trust.”
The regulator concluded: “We note the measures the broadcaster has put in place following the incident to
ensure that pre-recorded programming is signposted clearly and its listeners are made aware that song requests may not be fulfilled during the current programme. As such, Ofcom does not expect a recurrence of this compliance issue.”