Watchdog to look into council’s radio ads

PUBLISHED: 14:39 25 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:14 06 May 2010

A COUNCIL may face investigation after a series of radio adverts were broadcast in the run-up to the local elections. The independent communications watchdog Ofcom is considering whether Stevenage Borough Council should have advertised on Hertbeat FM fro

A COUNCIL may face investigation after a series of radio adverts were broadcast in the run-up to the local elections.

The independent communications watchdog Ofcom is considering whether Stevenage Borough Council should have advertised on Hertbeat FM from April onwards.

Lib Dem councillor Robin Parker told The Comet he was concerned to hear a series of paid radio advertisements, placed by the council's corporate communications office, broadcast at regular frequent intervals during the day in the weeks leading up to the local elections.

He said: "The adverts repeated the allegedly high satisfaction levels of local residents for SBC services and, while obviously not mentioning the ruling Labour party by name, it is questionable whether or not they should have been aired at this time since Labour are so closely associated with SBC - having dominated it since the 1950s."

Ofcom will look into whether the adverts comply with section 321 of the Communication Act 2003 which says adverts must not influence the outcome of elections or referendums.

Cllr Parker said: "I have been told that it was agreed to conduct a council publicity campaign some months ago and that this went through the council's executive committee, of which I am a member, so, before anyone says I should have known about it and objected at that time, I must make clear that that report did not specify the exact nature of the campaign or that radio adverts would appear in the two-week run-up to local elections when live postal votes were in the hands of electors."

An Ofcom spokesman said: "We are now aware of the material that was aired on Hertbeat fm and we are currently considering whether this case should be taken forward.

"The Advertising Standards Authority is responsible for the day-to-day regulation of advertising content.

"However, Ofcom is responsible, under the terms of the memorandum of understanding with the ASA, for enforcing the rules on political advertising on radio and television."

A council spokesman said: "Like many local authorities throughout the country, it is standard practice to give out information about the council and its services.

"We should and will continue to promote how people can access our services, including our website, by using different methods of advertising that really work.


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