No fine of penalty has been imposed as of now. But frequently breaking the provisions of the rule could attract fines.
Ofcom, a communication regulator in the UK, has ruled that Fox News broke broadcasting guidelines when it aired a program discussing Britain’s referendum vis-à-vis the European Union on the day of the vote.
The show, Your World with Neil Cavuto, which was produced in the US and broadcasted in the UK on June 23 at 9pm, just an hour before the closure of the polls, wherein Cavuto said:
“We are governed by a bunch of bureaucrats that don’t speak English in a funny place called The Hague, which makes no sense at all, and it tells Britain what to do it takes British money, it doesn’t send much of it back — it’s a very unfair one-way street when you begin to dig into it and the biggest thing of course is that all of this is all a disguise over the immigration issue.”
Moreover, at 9:55pm, with 10 minutes left before the closure of the vote, an analysis of a news reported:
“Long term I don’t buy this argument that Britain is going to fall apart. I means there’s no way…this is a very industrious culture they can set their own rules, I don’t know why any Brit — maybe I’m too much of a Yank — why would any Brit want to offshore its sovereignty to Brussels? That makes no sense to me.”
Ofcom has received a complaint regarding the airing of the program. It has taken the view that the program broke the TV code. As per rule 6.4 of the code, broadcasters aren’t allowed to analyse or even discuss issues related to the referendum while the polls are open. This is so because the opinions shared in the program could directly influence voters’ decisions and have an impact on the final outcome.
In fact this was the exact reason why HBO’s Last Week Tonightshow which was licensed to Sky Atlantic in the UK was shown only after 10:10pm, when voting had ended.
On its part, Fox News has defended the airing saying, it was aired in the US and in the UK simultaneously since the timing coincided with the closing of the US stock market.
Its legal said, the program helped viewers “understand market performance that day,” and argued that the show was “prepared with a view towards an American audience.”
Fox News has said its program was not “advocating a particular position on the vote,” but rather discussing the issues “in the context of (their) impact on financial markets.”
It later went on to quote article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which awards people the right to freedom of expression.
Waiving this line of argument, Ofcom said, “The prohibition in rule 6.4 on discussion and analysis of referendum issues while the polls are open is not qualified in any way — for example by the possibility of a broadcaster justifying the material by the context.”
Although no penalty has been currently imposed by OfCom, repeating the same in the future may attract fines, said reports from Politico.