Ofcom criticises general election coverage

A leading business television channel has been found to have breached the code on maintaining political impartiality over its coverage of the general election.

In a ruling published today, industry watchdog Ofcom finds Bloomberg TV gave disproportionate airtime to the Labour party’s business policies compared to the other major parties ahead of the election this May.

“Ofcom found that the Labour party had been given an extended opportunity to present its policies through both a manifesto launch and interviews,” the ruling said.

“However, no such coverage, at any time throughout the election campaign, was given to any of the other major political parties.”

It added: “This requirement for due impartiality is particularly important at times of elections. The breach was therefore considered serious enough to be referred to the content sanctions committee for consideration of a statutory sanction. “

Bloomberg TV argued that the coverage of the Labour business manifesto was not uncritical, and that Tony Blair was subject to intense questioning. It also maintained that representatives of opposition parties were invited to the event, but declined.

Ofcom noted the broadcasters’ defence that this was not a deliberate breach of the code, and said the breach did not result from political bias.

However, the watchdog said it was “surprised and concerned” at this defence, given that the broadcaster was “experienced and well-established” in the field.

“Throughout its coverage of the election, Bloomberg TV had not covered, in a similar context, any other press conference, let alone a manifesto launch, in full with accompanying lengthy interviews with party leaders,” it said.

“This resulted in a service that had not maintained due impartiality for the period of the election.”

Bloomberg TV, which is available on satellite and cable, has been ordered to broadcast a statement detailing Ofcom’s findings on three consecutive days at 11am.