UK's Ofcom OKs sponsorship of TV, radio channels

MUMBAI: UK regulator Ofcom is amending its Broadcasting Code to allow the sponsorship of commercial television channels and radio stations, subject to specific safeguards intended to preserve editorial independence, protect the under 18s and ensure audiences are made fully aware of the sponsorship relationship.

Modifying a regulation in place for over 50 years, Ofcom announced yesterday that sponsorship of commercial television and radio programmes has been permitted for 15 years.

Restrictions on certain programmes and channels

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code prohibits the sponsorship of news and, for television, current affairs programmes. It also prohibits specific product categories from sponsoring certain kinds of programmes. For example, alcohol brands are not allowed to sponsor children's programmes and gambling companies may not sponsor programmes aimed at under 18s.

Ofcom intends to allow the sponsorship of any channel, so long as the amount of programming that cannot be sponsored is limited.

For example, channels and stations that broadcast short hourly news bulletins will be allowed to be sponsored. However, an alcohol brand would not be allowed to sponsor a children's television channel.

General restrictions: 

Specific safeguards will be put in place to preserve editorial integrity and protect children.

These include: 

* Viewers must be made aware of the sponsorship arrangement and the sponsor's credits must be separated from all other editorial and advertising content on the channel; credits for the channel sponsor must not appear in or around programmes that cannot be sponsored and credits should not suggest that these programmes are included in the sponsorship arrangement;

* The sponsor's presence on the channel should not be unduly prominent;

* Broadcasters will be unable to name channels after the sponsor. However, as at present, a company with a brand known in another field - for example, Hallmark or Saga - may be granted a Broadcasting Act licence in its own right, with editorial responsibility for all programme output.

Next steps

Channel sponsorship represents a new opportunity for broadcasters; however it is important that transparency, editorial independence and appropriate protection for the audience are maintained. Ofcom will therefore publish guidance for broadcasters to go alongside the new Code rules, to ensure full compliance.

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