Ofcom has not upheld a complaint by a former employee at Star Radio North East after a presenter made a joke of her joining a rival station.
Miss Karen Riley, who had just quit the station after six weeks to join TFM’s sales team, complained that the announcement was unfair because it referred to her (although it did not name her) and suggested that Miss Riley’s departure from Star Radio had been “no great loss” because “she didn’t sell anything”.
Ofcom’s decision is that, although the comments may have been personally hurtful to Miss Riley, they were unlikely to affect listeners’ understanding of Miss Riley in a way that was unfair to her.
Ofcom was concerned however that Star Radio had broadcast an announcement which included comments of a personal nature that were hurtful and offensive to Miss Riley, and considered that it was inappropriate for the broadcaster to have used its position to make such comments on-air about Miss Riley.
Here’s how it played out on-air:
Presenter: “We’d like to thank TFM. You think you just poached one of our staff…
Clip 1, male voice: Clearly they have chosen the hot chick with the nice ‘taters.
Presenter: …but no great loss, ‘cause… She didn’t sell anything.1
[Soundeffect] Please keep your hands off Debbie –
Clip 2, male voice: Wow, I’ve never seen one individual do so much to a breast.
Presenter: …but feel free to try Gillian…[Sound effect] ‘cause everyone else has.
Clip 3, young boy: Get down! We can do this the easy way or we can do it dog style.
[voice of character from South Park]
Presenter: Ahem. This is Star”.
Following the incident, Miss Karen Riley complained to Ofcom that she was treated unjustly or unfairly in the announcement as broadcast.
In response, Star Radio said there were a number of staff movements between the two stations, and that this announcement wasn’t specific to Karen. However, both the MD and PD called her to apologise for the incident the next day.
Star Radio said that, in any case, the announcement could not have resulted in unfair treatment of Miss Riley because the statements made in it were true and fair.
Ofcom established that Miss Riley was identifiable in the clip, but it was light-hearted and jovial in tone. And despite concluding that the comments made in the announcement had the potential to be hurtful and offensive, it was satisfied that no unfairness to Miss Riley had resulted from the particular comments broadcast.
Star NE Managing Director, Mark Reason, is pleased with the outcome, telling RadioToday: “Whilst our radio station is deliberately spikey, to stand out from the five ultra-safe brands we have here in the North East, the last thing we want to do is upset anyone.”