Virgin escapes maximum fine

Millionaire broadcaster Chris Evans’ on-air support for Ken Livingstone’s London Mayoral Election campaign has cost Virgin Radio &£75,000, the highest ever fine imposed by the Radio Authority. The fine was handed down for a “serious breach” of strict rules requiring political impartiality from broadcasters.

In the Virgin Breakfast Show on March 21, Evans expressed at length his support for Livingstone after Labour candidate Frank Dobson attacked Evans’ private &£100,000 donation to Livingstone’s campaign, which he subsequently doubled to &£200,000.

Radio Authority chairman Richard Hooper says: “Political impartiality is a cornerstone of British broadcasting, strongly supported by all governments and public opinion over many years.

“This broadcast by Virgin was a flagrant breach of the longstanding rules surrounding political impartiality, made worse by the fact that the broadcast took place in the run-up to that most sensitive of political events, an election.”

Virgin Radio chief executive John Pearson said: “We support the Radio Authority in its pursuit of the highest standards of radio broadcasting and accept its ruling.”

The Radio Authority could have imposed a maximum fine – equal to five per cent of revenue gained from advertising and sponsorship – of about &£1m. But the Authority believed the station had tried to make amends for the breach on the next day’s breakfast programme.

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