Ofcom censures STV over sponsored shows

Regulator rules that channel allowed Scottish government to influence content.

Ofcom has rebuked the Scottish ITV licensee, STV, for airing programmes that were effectively adverts for government ministers and their agencies.

The media regulator launched an investigation into 57 programmes sponsored by the Scottish government, agencies and non-departmental public bodies and broadcast on STV in 2008 and 2009. The move followed allegations made by the Scottish Sunday Express and other newspapers that the government had influenced the content of shows, especially the Homecoming programmes.

While Ofcom cleared the Homecoming programmes, "Made in Scotland", "Scotland Revealed" and "The Greatest Scot", of any breach of the broadcast code, it ruled that 18 programmes made by STV had breached sponsorship rules.

Ofcom also found that the channel had allowed taxpayer-funded sponsorship from the Scottish Executive and its agencies to influence the shows' content and the broadcaster's editorial independence.

The regulator said that most of the programmes that breached the rules were of one minute duration and were on public information-style subjects. It noted that STV has sought programme funding to create programmes that promoted the sponsors' interests.