Wall Street Journal/ITC feud over CNBC ruling

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has attacked the Independent Television Commission (ITC), after the UK television regulator castigated its sister company, the pan-European financial TV channel CNBC Europe, for breaking European rules on programme sponsorship.

Last Friday, the WSJ described the ruling as “the British Government harassing private competitors of the publicly funded British Broadcasting Company” [sic], which “dominates Britain’s terrestrial TV channels” and uses its position to “aggressively” promote itself on other platforms, including digital and satellite.

The WSJ is owned by Dow Jones, which also co-owns CNBC Europe and NBC. The ITC reprimanded CNBC over the programme, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board with Stuart Varney, because its code forbids commercial sponsorship of current affairs programmes.

Meanwhile, in a row over a separate ruling, CNBC Europe has threatened to move its European base out of London. This threat follows a ruling by the ITC that a series aimed at explaining to consumers what the euro was – commissioned and funded by the European Union – broke the same code and therefore the EU’s own law.

CNBC Europe has written to culture secretary Tessa Jowell and trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt asking them to use this week’s Communications Bill to change the rules.

An ITC spokeswoman says both programmes broke the ITC Code, which is based on the UK Broadcasting Act 1990. The 1990 act is, in turn, based on the EU Broadcasting Directive of 1989. She adds: “For the rules to be changed, the directive would have to be changed.”

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