Community radio station in breach over sandwich plug in news

A community radio station which broadcast an advert for a supermarket’s new sandwich in its news bulletin has been ruled in breach of the Ofcom code.

Radio St Austell Bay in Cornwall included promotion for Morrisons’ new ‘Ham, egg and chips’ flavoured sandwich in the 11am bulletin on 12th August this year, with the newsreader saying: “Supermarket chain Morrisons is launching a new limited-edition sandwich that has all the flavours of a classic British pub favourite. Ham, egg and chips. The new edition Morrisons’ sarnie will be available to buy as part of the retailer’s £3.50 meal deal which includes a choice of any sandwich or salad, a snack and a drink for the next 12 months.”

Following a complaint to the broadcast regulator, the station confirmed to Ofcom that there was no commercial arrangement in place with Morrisons and described it as a ‘one-off incident’. The station said that the volunteer reading the news realised now that it was a ‘thoughtless lapse in judgement’, adding that they’d seen the story elsewhere, assumed it would be OK to use and so included the item in the news ‘in complete innocence, without any thought that he was wrong to’. Radio St Austell Bay also told Ofcom that it provides all volunteers with copies of Ofcom rules and reminds presenters of them.

Listen to the audio here:

In its decision, Ofcom said that audiences ‘expect broadcasters to maintain the highest standards of editorial independence, free from any suggestion of commercial influence’, and that Rule 10.3 of the Ofcom Code prohibits any commercial reference, or material that implies a commercial arrangement, in or around news bulletins.

Ofcom said: “Given the clearly promotional nature of this content, Ofcom considered that listeners were likely to have assumed a commercial arrangement was in place. We took into account the Licensee’s explanation that this had been broadcast due to a “lapse in judgement” by the presenter, and that it regularly reminds its presenters about the station’s obligation to comply with the Code. However, Ofcom’s Decision is that the material broadcast in this news bulletin implied a commercial arrangement, in breach of Rule 10.3 of the Code.”

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14 Comments
  1. Nev jack says

    Bit harsh! If it’s a local news , item it’s local news! How can you relate a item without telling anyone about it? Possibly the price should not have been mentioned, but so what…👎

    1. RadioToday UK says

      There isn’t a Morrisons in the patch so it’s not even local news..

  2. Ray Cathode says

    Ha Ha what a great story, nice to see OFFCOM – oh sorry I 4got there’s only one F in OFCOM – have nothing better to do.

  3. NEAL says

    As per usual with Ofcom Nero fiddles while Rome burns! Little boys crucified the big boys rule ok and don’t you forget it!

    1. Craig Strong says

      Well put!

  4. Mark Butcher says

    I hope they send morrisons an invoice!

  5. Lee says

    Would promotional content/consideration include the advertising of Capitals Summertime Ball during Capitals news bulletins on Ball day? One rule for the big radio groups and another rule for the much smaller radio stations. Yet more evidence of double standards from the unfit snd toothless regulator OFCOM.

    1. sj says

      I tend to agree that Global pushes it with the Summertime Ball mentions in news. But it would never promote ticket prices and how to buy them in bulletins. You can run it as an event or a showbiz story but the pushing of tickets bit is done outside of bulletins. It’s an admittedly fine line. But this guy read out the price and which components make up the meal deal!

  6. Richard Clewes says

    What would happen if the station took sky news and they mentioned it?

    1. Ray Cathode says

      Yes good point Richard, Sky radio news recently ran a story about Greggs and their Vegan sausage rolls – a blatant advert for Greggs – OFCOM need to stop this unnecessary bullying of small broadcasters, it’s not nice being sandwiched between doing one’s best and ending up in a pickle.

  7. Craig Strong says

    What kind of saddo complains about something as trivial as this???

    Get a life!

  8. Aaron James says

    Went to my local Morrisons after hearing about this advertisement yesterday (25 mins away from their studios). I didn’t see any of these sandwiches.

    Who do I complain to?

    1. Neil says

      They’d sold out after the blatant abuse of the presenters position!
      Lol
      What a lot of piffle!
      It’s a bloody sarnie poor lad getting hauled over the coals for something so trivial!

  9. Mr Boltar says

    No doubt if Global or Bauer did it they’d get away with it, however I do agree with this ruling because otherwise we’re heading down the slippery slope towards the hideous “infomercials” that they have on US radio which often means you have no idea if you’re listening to journalistic copy or paid for promotional content.

Comments are closed.