Election ad..radio station rapped

A RADIO station has been given a slap on the wrist for an advert broadcast on the run up to an election. Hertbeat FM was found to have breached the broadcasting code after they were investigated by independent regulators Ofcom.

A RADIO station has been given a slap on the wrist for an advert broadcast on the run up to an election.

Hertbeat FM was found to have breached the broadcasting code after they were investigated by independent regulators Ofcom.

A series of adverts commissioned by the council promoting its services were broadcast by the station in the run-up to the local elections in May.

The adverts stated that 75 per cent of people were happy with council services and 81 per cent of people said council staff were helpful.


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These survey figures, according to Ofcom, appeared to celebrate the achievements of the elected council and therefore supported the ruling Labour party.

Ofcom said: "We considered that this promoted the interests of the current council for political ends and was in breach of the (broadcasting) code. This was broadcast within the pending period of a local election and appeared to seek to influence the outcome of that election, also in breach of the code."

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Local councils can advertise on commercial radio but the broadcasting code - part of the Communication Act 2003 - says that the adverts should not be "directed towards any political end."

Heatbeat FM acknowledged that the adverts "may be interpreted as political".

The broadcaster said it merely intended to form an awareness campaign for council services and the campaign had originally been booked to end on April 16 but had been delayed.

The broadcasting code states adverts like council campaigns must be cleared by the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre before broadcast. But in this situation the council adverts were aired without clearance.

Heatbeat FM admitted that human error was to blame and apologised for the mistake.

Ofcom noted the action taken by Hertbeat FM to ensure that copy clearance would be obtained in the future but said: "Irrespective of any delay, this campaign had always been scheduled for broadcast, and was broadcast, within the pending period of an election, when the broadcaster should have been particularly alert to the risk of an advert having 'political ends'."

Cllr Robin Parker who complained to Ofcom said: "This incident shows how important it is to have opposition councillors who are willing to point out when something is not right.

"This shows a breach of the code and the law. This is all to do with democracy. It's more of a bungle rather than a conspiracy but it is important that these bungles are highlighted.

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