The UK Communications regulator, Ofcom, has fined Gamecast UK Limited, in respect of its service You TV2, £100,000 for breaches of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, its Television Licensable Content Service (TLCS) licence conditions and for transmitting an unlicensed service. The action relates to two separate instances from 2005. In the first a pre-recorded quiz was broadcast on TV2 without making clear the telephone number displayed on screen was not live; in the second instance, 6 minutes of hardcore pornography, which is illegal to broadcast in the UK under any circumstances, was broadcast unencrypted during the afternoon on TV3.
With regards to the most serious complaint, Gamecast initially claimed that the adult material was another broadcasters material that had been played out on its channel due to a technical glitch, and that the play out material provided to them was also used to broadcast to the US. It later became apparent, despite Gamecast’s legal representative telling an Ofcom hearing that the transmission had nothing to do with Gamecast, that it was the licensee itself, or one of its affiliated companies, which provided the adult material.
To make matters worse the material was broadcast on a channel, TV3, that the licensee had yet to receive a licence for.
Ofcom were extremely concerned by the lack of transparency displayed by Gamecast in its dealing with Ofcom and its apparent lack of ability to explain cleary, or at all , those with whom it had contacts. Additionally Ofcom was concerned that in both cases Gamecast had failed to either provide the requested output, or had done so in a format that was unreadable.
Ofcom rightly dismissed the argument of Gamecast’s legal representative that it should not face a statutory fine concluding ” the licensee had been less than transparent with Ofcom which aggravated the position. Despite its assertions to the contrary, Gamecast had shown a reluctance to accept responsibility for much of what had happened, much of which had been blamed on third parties or ex-employees. In particular, the Committee was most concerned by the licensee’s apparent lack of frankness with respect to the background to the transmission of the R18 equivalent material. It considered the fact that very explicit sexual material was being played out under encryption, by the same play-out centre as was used for its entertainment service, and this was the result of an arrangement by Gamecast (or one of its affiliates) was a significant factor which had only been revealed under questioning in the hearing. The Committee was also concerned that the Gamecast’s was unable to offer any explanation as to how a programme said to be encrypted for transmission in the US (under NTSC format) could be viewed free-to-air when accidentally broadcast in the UK, where a different format is used. The Committee therefore considered that there had been a multiplicity of failures showing a complete lack of due diligence and an inability to understand and implement compliance procedures”