Political Advertisements on Channel i Europe

In the past, several Bengali TV channels broadcasting from the UK have been rapped by Ofcom for breaches of broadcasting rules. I’m sure many other breaches go unnoticed, largely due to the viewers not flagging up the issue to Ofcom (via their website).

Recently, Channel S and NTV were found to have breached Ofcom rules (Bengali TV channels, Channel S and NTV in breach of Ofcom rules, again!)

Yesterday, I was shocked to see a range of political advertisement on Channel i, a Bengali satellite TV channel broadcasting to UK and Europe. It was for similar advertisements that NTV was found in breach of. One wonders if the people operating these TV channel are ‘fit and proper’ for the purpose? It also makes you wonder if such individuals have close connections to political parties originating from Bangladesh? Here is a complaint made to Ofcom with images and videos of the advertisements.

Dear Ofcom,

The Bangladeshi people around the world are used to political wrangling that takes place back home. The constant national strikes by these political parties brings the country to its knees and hinders progress. People live in fear of constant threats and violence from individuals associated with political parties. Poverty often fuels such association and motivation for violence.

A large number of Bangladeshis have left their impoverished motherland and made homes abroad, like the UK. Although Bengalis have a strong sense of nationalism due to the violet birth of their country in 1971, many of these immigrants avoid modern politics like the plague.

There are two large political parties in Bangladesh with their branches and advocates spread around the UK and the world. One of them is the Bangladesh Awami League (Awami League), the current ruling party. Its leader is Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the founding father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The other is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Its leader is Begum Khaleda Zia, the the widow of the President and former army chief Ziaur Rahman.

Now and then advertisements appear on TV channels aimed at Bengali speaking people in the UK and Europe promoting events organised/supported by the above political parties. I note Ofcom found NTV in breach of similar advertisement in Broadcast Bulletin 202. I was shocked to see a range of short adverts in several slots within a short time period, broadcast on Channel i on the Sky platform on the evening of 13th of April 2012. You would have thought the NTV breach would serve as a warning to the rest of the Bengali channels. Sadly it has not.

Here is the list of potential breach of Ofcom rules.Video 1 below is a record of what was broadcast by Channel i on 12th of April at 22:14hrs.

  • An advert for a gathering and cultural event organised by Sheffield BNP branch (see Image 1). You will notice the screen had the BNP logo alongside the union jack, representing a UK branch of Bangladesh Nationalist Party. In the middle is a photos of Begum Khaleda Zia, Ziaur Rahman and what looks like her son Tareq Rahman. There is also a list of BNP officials who will be present at the event. 
  • An advert for Birmingham Awami League (Image 2). Although this ad does not have the logos or photos of the party leaders from Bangladesh, it does however say at the bottom of the image, Birmingham Awami League as the promoters/organisers. It also list three special guest (Image 3) stating their role within the Awami League.
  • There were two more adverts which share similar screen graphics. One for Cardiff City Youth League and the other for Greater London Student League. You will notice there is a photo of both Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, with the Bangladesh Awami League flag/logo to the top right. I would assume with the photos and word ‘League’ in the names of the event organiser/promoters as indication of their close affiliation to the Bangladesh Awami League. Cardiff City Youth League and Greater London Student League are in effect some sort of branches of the Awami League.

Here is the list of potential breach of Ofcom rules.Video 2 below is a
record of what was broadcast by Channel i on 12th of April at 22:21hrs.

  • An invitation to an event promoted by the Scotland BNP branch (Image 6) and a message from the UK BNP Officials (Image 7). As described above the adverts are clearly from BNP branches in UK, as the photos of their leaders/officials and logo of the party show. I would say this ad and few others here are very similar to the one broadcast on NTV which you found to be in breach.
  • An invitation to an event from Barcelona Awami League (Image 8). Again photos of Awami League leaders and list of its Barcelona branch officials.
  • A notice of election of Osmanpur Union Trust UK officials (Image 9). This looks like a UK branch of a local development organisation in Bangladesh. Although it may not be a ‘political party’ it is however advertising an election. How can the views be sure if all of the candidates/officials are listed in the ad for the sake of neutrality?

In all above case, I would say that the advertisements are not directed towards a political end, except for the ad for Osmanpur Union Trust UK election. However, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Bangladesh Awami League are two of the major political parties in Bangladesh and therefore two bodies “whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature”. Therefore, there is potential breaches of Rule 7.2 of the BCAP Code, which prohibits “an advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.”

As an end note, these adverts for the above two political parties may not be directed towards a political end but are in effect promoting their ‘brand’. There is a question of expatriate Bangladeshis in the UK and people with dual citizenship, where such citizens may have voting rights during an election in Bangladesh. I strongly believe the above adverts can have an effect on such election or support to these parties during the election, even though the election is not held during the airing of the adverts. I also believe for the sake of progress, the Bengalis in the UK need to prioritise and participate in the democratic processes here, rather than Bangladesh but the above adverts shows the strong influence of the political parties originating from Bangladesh.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind Regards

Abdus Salam

Video 1: Political Advertisements on Channel i UK (12th April 2214hrs) 
Image 1: Sheffield BNP Event
Image 2: Birmingham Awami League
Image 3: Birmingham Awami League
Image 4: Cardiff City Youth League
Image 5: Greater London Student League
Video 2: Political Advertisements on Channel i UK (12th April 2221hrs) 
Image 6: Scotland BNP 
Image 7: UK BNP Officials
Image 8: Barcelona Awami League
Image 9: Osmanpur Union Trust UK Election

Addition: 24th April 2012

More political
advertisement on Channel i Europe (Sky channel 844). These ads were shown
several times, in particular 23/04/12 10.30pm and 24/04/12 7.58pm. You will see photos of
leading political figures, logos, slogan, references to politician of
specific parties etc. More on Abdus Samad
Azad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdus_Samad_Azad). Abdul Gaffar Choudhury
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Gaffar_Choudhury)
Abdus Samad Azad –
Awami League Event 29 April
Abdus Samad Azad –
Awami League Event 30 April
UK Youth League –
Awami League Event
Wales Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) Ad
Political Advertisements on Channel i Europe – Video 3 (24th April 19:58hrs)

Addition: 27th April 2012

Political
advertisement on Channel i Europe (Sky channel 844) and ATN Bangla UK (Sky channel 827). You will see photos of
leading political figures, logos, slogan, references to politician of
specific parties etc.

Italy BNP Channel i Sky 844 (10.30pm 26 April)

Brescia Branch of Bangladesh Nationalist Party Channel i Sky 844 (10.30pm 26 April)

UK Youth League (Awami League) ATN Sky 827 (10.59pm & 11.31pm 26th April)

Italy BNP
Brescia Branch of Bangladesh Nationalist Party 
Political Advertisements on Channel i Europe – Video 4 (26th April 2230hrs) 
UK Youth League (Awami League)
Political Advertisements on ATN Bangla UK – Video 5 (26th April 22:59 & 23:31 Hrs) 
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