Ex-Ofcom chief says England-only Covid announcements on Welsh TV break broadcast rules
England-only Covid announcements on Welsh TV screens break broadcast rules, according to a former Ofcom chief.
Ian Clarke, who was Chair of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Wales, was responding to a call from Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell, for broadcast rules to be changed to stop “inaccurate information” being spread in Wales.
During a debate in the Senedd, Jewell pointed to an England-only announcement made by Boris Johnson on Sunday, which was was broadcast on Welsh TV screens but was “not relevant to us”.
Clarke has argued that such broadcasts already break Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code and has called on the Welsh Government to insist that the regulator “take action against past breaches”, adding that he has “witnessed seriously misleading coverage”.
The Code states: “Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience.”
Clarke said: “It is already contrary to the @ofcom Broadcasting Code para 2.2.2 to broadcast a nominally ‘factual’ programme element which causes harm by being misleading.
“I would urge @welshgovernment to insist that Ofcom take action against past breaches (I have witnessed seriously misleading coverage by
@bbc and @SkyNews – there are probably others). And insist remedial steps are taken to prevent future cases.”
During a debate in the Senedd, Delyth Jewell said: “On Sunday evening, Trefnydd, Boris Johnson’s broadcast was on Welsh TV screens saying that everyone would receive a third vaccination by the end of the year.
“Now, at the time, this was an England-only announcement, and this isn’t the first time for the Prime Minister to have made a statement broadcast on Welsh TV screens that was not relevant to us.
“The one in May was much worse, when Mr Johnson announced that the advice had changed from stay at home to a slogan that was far more ambiguous. This announcement didn’t apply in Wales.
“The advice here was that we should continue to stay at home, but there was no explanation at the time that the announcement was not relevant to Wales.”
She added: “I think it’s clear, therefore, that we need changes in broadcasting rules to prevent inaccurate information being broadcast here and causing confusion, if not risks.
“I’m pleased therefore that the co-operation agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government includes a commitment to consider establishing a shadow broadcasting and communications authority for Wales, as this body could recommend such a change.
“Could the Government, therefore, timetable a statement on this at some point in the new year, in order to provide details on the next steps?”
The Trefnydd Lesley Griffiths replied: “Thank you. I think it’s very important, when the Prime Minister does make these announcements, that he makes it very clear that, on that particular occasion, he’s speaking on behalf of the people of England, and that’s why it was very good to see our First Minister addressing the people of Wales in a similar vein on Monday evening.
“The point you raise, as you say, it is within the co-operation agreement between Delyth Jewell’s party and my own, and I’m sure, as we work through the 46 policies, a statement will be brought before the Senedd.”
Ofcom has been approached for a response.