Ofcom says there was “insufficient editorial justification for the sheer number and frequency of references” to the music download service in the radio group’s networked “The Big Top 40 Show”.
The show includes real-time download sales from the iTunes store, with listeners able to influence the top ten by downloading songs from iTunes during the live show.
One listener to Global’s Galaxy Manchester station was concerned that references such as “powered by iTunes, the chart you can change” and “let’s check out the chart. This is the iTunes top ten” overly promoted the download service.
Under Ofcom rules, broadcasters must not give “undue prominence” to a product or service and should not promote products and services in programmes.
Global argued it “retained absolute editorial control of the programme” and that the “iTunes top ten” had to be differentiated from the rest of the Big Top 40 chart, which is not solely based on iTunes’ data.
It adds that references to the chart being “powered by iTunes” added “editorial context for the listener”.
Global says the agreement it had with iTunes “involved no financial arrangement concerning the production of The Big Top 40 Show”.
Ofcom did accept the radio group’s argument that reference to “the iTunes top ten” was editorially justified as a “means to explain the specific source and nature of the Big Top 40 chart’s top ten places”, adding it also “accepted that an occasional reference to the Big Top 40 chart being “powered by iTunes” could be editorially justified as a means to explain the nature of the entire chart, which was influenced by iTunes as a data source.”
However, the watchdog says it “did not consider that the repeated references throughout the programme to iTunes, whether referring to the top ten or the chart more generally served any further purpose and therefore appeared gratuitous.”
Global is still looking for a title sponsor of the show, which launched in May. As part of the deal, the sponsor’s name or logo would appear on the iTunes site, the first time branding has appeared on the store’s home page.