Ofcom raps Sky Sports for breaching Broadcast Code

Media regulator Ofcom pulled up Sky Sports after it received complaints of “blatant” and “irrelevant” logos for technology partner EA Sports appearing on Sky Sports 2 match facts graphics.

The incident occurred during the live coverage of the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United last year on September 11.

The logo for the video games manufacturer appeared for a total of 14 times during the games pre- and post-match comment, graphic on-screen displays of statistics and match facts.

This made a viewer complain that the logos inclusion was “irrelevant”, “unnecessary” and “blatant”.

Following the complaint, Ofcom asked for information on EA’s role in connection with the match data and any contractual arrangements that related to the appearance of the on-screen branding.

Sky Sports however confirmed that the branding was not linked to any programme sponsorship arrangements with EA.

According to Sky Sports’ explanation, EA was contracted to the Premier League as the “Official Sports Technology Partner” and the broadcaster understood that this arrangement included sponsorship of the league itself, a sponsor presence at matches, and in other Premier League-controlled properties, including the overseas broadcast feed.

The broadcaster also explained that, as part of its agreement with the Premier League for the live broadcast of certain matches, it is required, subject to applicable laws and the Ofcom codes, to provide an on-screen credit for the “Official Technology Partner”.

It stated that its editorial control was independent throughout, including where credits were given for EA or any other Premier League sponsor and that “no specific product or service was mentioned” and that no “sales messages” were present as part of the EA Sports logos, but that, “on this occasion, the application of the EA on-screen credit should have been subject to greater editorial judgement given the high-scoring nature of this particular game, which meant the credit was displayed on a higher than normal number of occasions”.

Sky accepted that its editorial policy in that respect should be “clarified”.

In reply, Ofcom noted that “sports coverage is a genre in which branding and general commercial exposure can be expected” and that “audiences generally accept and understand that branding”.

Ofcom also stated that the 14 repeated appearances of the logo was a breach of Rule 10.3 of the Broadcast Code by the broadcaster, which prohibits undue prominence of a product in programming.

Adding that no further action would be taken against Sky Sports, Ofcom said that all broadcasters must comply with the current Broadcast Code.

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