Ofcom raps PCSO programme over Gov sponsorship

Ofcom has found Beat: Life on the Street, the Government funded programme (AFP), in breach of its code of conduct for not making its sponsorship arrangement clear.

The show, which was sponsored by the Home Office, showed police community support officers (PCSOs) in an “overwhelmingly” positive light and made little reference to the fact that the show was sponsored by the Home Office.

Two viewers complained that the show, which was broadcast on ITV1 in 2006 and a second series in January 2008, was government propaganda and the Home Office’s relationship with the series should have been made clearer.

The complaints followed reports last August suggesting the Home Office supported the show with £800,000 of funding and officials were involved with the editing of the show.

In its adjudication, the watchdog says: “Ofcom judged that overall the series portrayed the PCSOs and the contribution they made to communities in a positive light… serving officers talked in detail about why they enjoyed their role and there were a number of narrated statements that described the PCSO service in positive terms.”

It adds the Home Office’s sponsorship was only in the credits and “was not made transparent since the size of its text and the brevity of the Home Office’s logo’s appearance on screen meant it was likely to have been missed by viewers.”

Government AFPs have proved controversial, as they appear indistinguishable from regular shows. Last August, it was revealed that the Government has spent almost £2m on AFPs. In September, Sky handed back £400,000 of funding to the Home Office to ensure that documentary series, UK Border Force, was “wholly independent”.

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