STV rapped by watchdog for indyref broadcast

STV has been rapped by media watchdogs after broadcasting a programme about the independence referendum on polling day.

STV has been rapped by media watchdogs after broadcasting a programme about the independence referendum on polling day.

The broadcaster aired a repeat of current affairs show Scotland Tonight despite strict rules in place which state that “discussion of referendum issues must finish when the poll opens”.

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The programme, hosted by John MacKay and Rona Dougall, was aired on the STV Glasgow channel at around 3pm on September 18 as millions headed to polling stations to cast their vote.

It included discussion about the referendum with studio guests and analysis of opinion polls which had been conducted in the run-up to the referendum.

STV reported the error themselves to media regulator Ofcom the following day. The company said it was an “unfortunate incident” which had been caused by “human error”.

Rule 6.4 of the Broadcasting Code says: “Discussion... of election and referendum issues must finish when the poll opens,” while Rule 6.5 states “broadcasters must not publish the results of any opinion poll on polling day itself until the poll closes”.

In a written ruling, Ofcom said: “In this case we noted that a current affairs programme which focused on the last day of campaigning during the Scottish Independence Referendum, and which included contents of various opinion polls, had been broadcast by STV Glasgow while polling stations were open for the Scottish Independence Referendum on September 18 2014.

“In reaching our decision we took into account that the licensee had: immediately alerted Ofcom to this matter, accepted that the programme “did not comply with Rule 6.4 and Rule 6.5 of the Code” and proactively taken steps to improve compliance in this area.

“However, the purpose of Rule 6.4 and Rule 6.5 is to ensure that broadcast coverage on the day of a referendum does not directly affect voters’ decision.

“Due to the fact that the programme contained both discussion of the referendum and the result of various opinion polls, we considered that the programme was clearly in breach of Rules 6.4 and 6.5.”

STV said that the programme “did not contain any new material that was not in the public domain” but accepted it shouldn’t have been broadcast on the day.

The broadcaster added: “Remedial steps have been taken to prevent a similar mistake happening again.”

Outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond has praised STV for their ‘balanced’ coverage of the independence campaign but accused the BBC of being biased towards a No vote.

In 2010, Glasgow-based station Radio Clyde was found in breach of the broadcasting code after presenters talked about voting on General Election polling day.

A broadcast of football show Superscoreboard, hosted by Peter Martin and Graeme Speirs, resulted in four complaints to the watchdog, including a claim that one of the presenters had expressed backing for the Labour Party.

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