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Channel S fined for Lib Dem ads

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Channel S has been fined a total of £40,000 for repeatedly broadcasting an advertisement that told viewers to vote for mayoral candidate Brian Paddick and GLA candidate Jalal Rajonuddin in the London elections on May 1.

The ad showed images of Paddick and Rajonuddin and a voiceover in Bangla stated: "Vote Brian Paddick for mayoral candidate, and Jalal for GLA candidate – one time anti-racist activist; former deputy leader of Tower Hamlets Council; and well known East London political leader. Vote for Jalal by placing a cross on box number 10 on the yellow ballot paper. For more information, contact..."

An on-screen caption, also in Bangla, said: "Vote for GLA candidate Jalal Rajonuddin".

On 44 separate occasions between April 18 and 22, the advert went out on Channel S NTV, ATN and Channel S, in a breach of the TV Advertising Code which states: "No advertisement may be inserted by or on behalf of any body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature". The code also bans ads that "may be directed towards any political end".

Ofcom said the breach "was very serious", and said the ban exists "to prohibit political advertising because of the serious potential effect that such advertising can have on the democratic process".

The regulator said a fine was appropriate because "the potential effect of the political advertising in this case was significant - the advertisement gave unfair promotion to Liberal Democratic Party candidates for the 2008 London mayoral and London Assembly elections by being shown during the election period; the case is not a marginal one - the Advertisement involved a flagrant breach of the TV Advertising Code and was broadcast on a total of 44 occasions over a five day period; and, the compliance procedures in place at the time of the breach were woefully inadequate".

Channel S' compliance consultant told Ofcom that the ad "did not go through" the broadcaster's usual compliance process "because the approach was made over a weekend and a decision to allow it to be broadcast was taken by a junior member of the... marketing department". The consultant further claimed that the junior staff member had been told by the Liberal Democrats that the ad "was satisfactory to broadcast"; that claim was not verified by Ofcom.

Calling the breach "blatant", Ofcom issued fines for each licensed service: £15,000 on Channel S World Ltd, £13,000 on Channel S Plus Ltd, and £12,000 on Channel S Global Ltd.

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