ATN Bangla in trouble for airing “political advert”

In April 2012 I made complaints to Ofcom about several political advertisements on Bengali TV channels broadcasting in the UK. Some of these are still under investigation.

One of the them was about an advert by the youth arm of the Bangladesh Awami League UK. I uploaded the advert on YouTube. As political advertisement is not allowed, Ofcom investigation found ATN Bangla in breach of UK broadcasting rules. Full Ofcom report can be read here.

ATN’s response to Ofcom was amateur to say the least. It refers to irrelevant no broadcast advertising rules! ATN also denied that youth arm of the Bangladesh Awami League is NOT political! ATN also denied that the three people who were named on the advert as those who placed the ad and as point of contact were not part of this youth arm.

Bangladesh is at its knees because of internal political fighting and the constant calls of national strikes by political parties. It deeply saddens me to see these parties have such influence in the the UK. It can be said without doubt that a large number of UK Bangladeshis, especially the older generation live in their own ‘bubble’, secluded from the realities of the real problems we face in the UK. It’s the small number of progressive UK Bengalis, especially of the younger generations who endure these problems. Politics of ‘back-home’ is a real hindrance to our progress in the UK.

A short report from Media247:

ATN Bangla has been found in breach by media regulator Ofcom for airing a political advertisement, which are prohibited on radio and television under broadcasting rules.

The advert was placed on the channel by an organisation called the UK Jubo League. The broadcaster said the advertiser was “not part of the Bangladesh Jubo League which is the youth arm of the Bangladesh Awami League”.

However, Ofcom was unable to accept the advertiser’s account of the UK Jubo League being non-political in nature, in the face of the facts of the advertisement’s actual content.

The advert was aired on 26th April 2012 at 23:00.

Here are some selected text from the Ofcom Decision

Ofcom took into account the comments of both the Licensee and advertiser about the communitarian rather than political nature of the (aborted) event. Further, it gave full consideration to the Licensee’s statement that it had sought and secured an assurance that the “UK Jubo League” had no connection to the Jubo League that is the youth wing of a Bangladeshi political party.

However, Ofcom was unable to accept the advertiser’s account of the UK Jubo League being non-political in nature, in the face of the facts of the advertisement’s actual content.

Other than the three persons identified by the Licensee as having placed the advertisement (Mishlu, Modhu and Khan), all of the people named in the advertisement are connected to the Awami League political party: Alhaj Omar Faruk Chowdhury – acknowledged in the advertisement itself to be Chair of the Bangladesh Awami Jubo League; Mirza Azam MP – General Secretary of the Bangladesh Awami Jubo League4 and member of the Central Committee of the Bangladesh Awami League5; and Jahangir Kabir Nanok MP – Organising Secretary of the Awami League6.

In addition, the advertisement bore the pictures of three significant Bangladeshi figures connected to the Awami League and its youth wing, the Jubo League: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – former President of Bangladesh and Head of the Awami League; Sheikh Hasina (the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman), current Prime Minister of Bangladesh and President of the Bangladesh Awami League; and Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, the founding chairman of the Jubo League.

Ofcom also noted the advertisement’s reference to the event being “the Triennial Conference”, i.e. that this was one of a continuing cycle of conferences, not a one-off event such as might be held in honour of a person or group of people.

Finally, in relation to the Licensee’s comments on the CAP Code, this Code is adjudicated on by the ASA and applies to non-broadcast advertising and does not apply to broadcast advertising, i.e. advertising carried by TV or radio services.

In view of these facts, Ofcom concluded that the advertisement had been placed by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature. This conclusion was in Ofcom’s view supported by the otherwise extraneous text saying: “The reverberated call in the parade of freedom makes us feel as though we are Mujib [i.e. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] ourselves.”

For these reasons Ofcom judged ATN Bangla to be in breach of section 321(2)(a) of the Act and therefore of Rule 7.2.1(a) of the BCAP Code.

Breach of Rule 7.2.1(a) of the BCAP Code

Abdus Salam

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