evidence from Ofcom (OAP 01)
Ref: Ofcom Annual Plan evidence
- 1 December 2009
Ed Richards and I appeared before your committee last week to discuss Ofcom's Annual Plan 2009/10 we agreed to provide
some more detail on a number of issues.
Hall MP asked for details on broadcasting fines issued in 2009. Below is a
table setting out all fines for breaches of the Broadcasting Code so far this
on each 11 regional licensees i.e. £220,000 in total
on Out of London quotas
Central, STV North, UTV plc and Channel Television
on Out of London quotas
sexual content that was on free-to-air services
editions of The Russell
contained offensive material relating to the actor Andrew Sachs and his
granddaughter, and content which unwarrantably infringed their privacy.
Productions Ltd. and Portland
content and references to websites containing
equivalent to BBFC R18-rated material
could be viewed without registration
respect of the broadcast of three listener competitions called Suss the Celeb
The X Factor
Hall MP also asked whether Ofcom was
investigating The X Factor following complaints that one of the judges referred
a decision to 'deadlock'.
received around 1,300 complaints following the broadcast of The X Factor
on ITV1 on 8 November 2009. The
majority of complainants were concerned about an issue that arose following the
'deadlock' stage of that evening's round. At this stage of the contest, the two
acts who receive the least votes in that evening's public vote compete to stay
in the contest, with the judges making the final decision. On this occasion
judge Simon Cowell claimed he was unable to make a
decision between the "bottom two" acts. Instead, he reverted to the public
vote, which had been strongly in favour of one of the two acts, the twins known
Many of the complainants alleged that, as Cowell had
made clear his opposition to Jedward in previous
rounds, his decision to revert to the public vote on this occasion, which
enabled Jedward to stay in the contest, was evidence
that the contest, and therefore the vote, was in some way "fixed".
about the general fairness of a broadcast contest's format or rules do not
generally raise issues under the Broadcasting Code. When considering complaints
about audience voting or allegations that such votes are "fixed", we assess
them under Rule 2.2 of the Code, which requires that the "... portrayal of
factual matters must not materially mislead the audience".
this case, ITV's published terms and
conditions for The X Factor make clear that the format of the contest at
this stage involves a public vote to determine the "bottom two" acts, who must
then compete for a place in the next round. The final decision between those
two acts is then made by the judges. Therefore Simon Cowell's
decision to follow the public vote on this occasion did not involve any
contravention of the broadcaster's terms and conditions of the contest or the
Having carefully assessed these complaints, our view is that there is no
evidence to suggest that the audience generally (and more particularly, those
who had paid to vote in this round), had been materially misled, on the basis
of Cowell's actions. We therefore do not intend to
proceed to launching a formal investigation of these complaints under the Code.
have published a number of previous findings in the Broadcast Bulletin which
illustrate how complaints relating to the general fairness of the rules of such
contests do not raise issues under the Code. To date, this particular instance
has been an isolated case of such complaints in this year's series of The X
Factor. Therefore we are unlikely to publish a "not in breach" finding in
the Bulletin specifically on this particular issue. However, we are continuing
to assess other complaints about the series as we receive them, and may publish
a finding on the series as a whole if the issues raised, overall, merit one.
Sanders MP asked about use of SMS / text messaging as a means of contacting the
emergency services, and I said I would come back with more information on
is currently a trial taking place to allow deaf, hard of hearing and speech
impaired people to send a text message to the 999 service where it will be
passed to the police, ambulance, fire rescue, or coastguard.
service is open to anyone who wishes to register, whether or not they are deaf,
hard of hearing or speech impaired. Registering is easy to do, and requires the
individual to text the word 'register' to 999. They will then receive the Terms
and Conditions in two SMS / text messages. When they have read the Terms and
Conditions they send 'accept' in an SMS / text message to 999. Finally, they
will receive a SMS / text message telling them that their mobile phone is
registered or if there is a problem with your registration.
the trial, which is being run by the 999 Liaison Committee, is successful then
the services will be launched in 2010. So far there have been around 2,500
registrations - around 50 a day.
have set up a meeting with Adrian Sanders MP early next year to discuss this
addition to these points, we committed to keep you updated on the two
forthcoming spectrum auctions and any changes in our proposed timetable, which
we will of course do.
have copied this letter to both committee clerks and to Mike Hall MP and Adrian
Sanders MP who raised specific points as set out above. I will follow up
separately with Ian Stewart MP on his kind invitation to speak to the All Party
Community Media Group.
ever, if there is anything else you would like further information on please
contact me directly.
Peter Luff MP
Adrian Sanders MP