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Sky anti-Virgin 'ads' slammed by Ofcom

Sky broke the rules 2500 times trying for force Virgin Media's hand over Sky One

Sky broke the rules 2500 times trying for force Virgin Media's
published on UK Free TV

Today's Ofcom "Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin" is very bad news for BSkyB.

In a substantial investigation, Ofcom found that Sky broadcast 2500 promotional trailers that broke rule 10.4 of the Broadcasting Code:

10.4 No undue prominence may be given in any programme to a product or service.

Note: "Undue prominence" may result from: the presence of, or reference to, a product or service (including company names, brand names, logos) in a programme where there is no editorial justification; or the manner in which a product or service (including company names, brand names, logos) appears or is referred to in a programme.


This serious and repeated breach of the broadcasting rules was down to the four trailers that:

  • broadcast a promotion ('Promotion') which consisted of a voiceover supplemented by scrolling on-air text that said: "If you're an ntl:Virgin customer you should know that they are doubting the value of Sky One, Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Travel. These channels could soon disappear, along with your favourite shows like brand new Lost, 24, Battlestar Galactica and Simpsons. You can help by calling ntl:virgin now on 0845 454 00 00 and urging them to keep the tv you love on air."
  • a set of similar promos that included clips of programming from the Sky Channels and voiceovers that referred to the programmes and the channels in question, and included the message "or join Sky at sky.com/switch."
  • promotions on channels that were still distributed by Virgin Media (essentially its movies and sports channels); again these promotions were only broadcast on the Virgin Media cable network, again included clips of and references to programming from the Sky Channels. They also referred to the fact that Virgin Media had 'dropped' the Sky Channels and referred viewers to sky.com/switch. "If you're a Virgin Media Customer, you'll know that they've dropped Sky Sports News. To get the tv you love back go to Sky.com/switch"
  • Another set of promo saying "You may have heard that Virgin Media customers no longer receive some of the Sky channels. But don't worry, as a Sky customer you'll still be able to watch all your favourite programmes. Sky continues to invest in its channels so you can enjoy our groundbreaking shows like brand new Battlestar Galactica, Lost and 24. Count on Sky for the TV you love."
Broadcasters are only allowed to use their own promotional slots to promote their programmes and schedules, and specifically:
  • ensuring that cross-promotions on television are distinct from advertising and inform viewers of services that are likely to be of interest to them as viewers; and
  • ensuring that promotions in television outside programmes do not prejudice fair and effective competition.
And "all licensees and S4C shall ensure that Cross-promotions are limited to Broadcasting-related Services." and to not allow "undue prominence".

Ofcom notes "Broadcasters are reminded that, if promotional content goes beyond what is permitted under the Cross-promotion Code and indeed the relevant provisions of the Broadcasting Code (in particular Rule 10.4), they must consider whether such content may only be broadcast as part of their paid-for advertising allowance."

This all seems very familiar - Sky told lies to Solus card holders when the BBC went free to air!

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