A superimposed Rolex clock during coverage of the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix resulted in multiple Formula 1 broadcasters raising concerns to Formula One Management (FOM), the UK communications body Ofcom has revealed.
Ofcom, the body that regulates UK television and radio communication in the UK, received a complaint in relation to Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the Singapore qualifying session from 2016. The complaint related to a Rolex clock, which FOM superimposed over the Singapore Flyer during coverage that weekend, the complainant arguing that the clock was unduly prominent. As part of their investigation, Channel 4’s highlights programme was also brought into scope.
Readers will be aware that Rolex plays a major part in Formula 1’s timing system and graphics set, with their logo displayed at regular intervals, something that is frequently referenced during Ofcom’s write-up (an area they are unconcerned about). However, the Rolex clock went far beyond what had taken place before.
Sky argued that, under the terms of their contract with Formula 1 to broadcast the action live, they had to broadcast an unaltered World Feed of qualifying, and as a result an “increased tolerance around undue prominence and product promotion was needed,” something that applies for all live sporting events.
Channel 4 argued that, for practicality reasons, the turn-around time between the live broadcast ending and their highlights show starting was “extremely limited”, and that the placement of the graphic made it difficult to remove from the broadcast without disturbing the flow of the action significantly.
Whisper Films, who produce Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage, raised what Ofcom describe as “serious concerns” about the undue prominence “at a senior level with Formula One”, with another broadcaster according to Ofcom’s write-up doing the same. In addition, Sky informed Formula 1 that the superimposed Rolex clock was “beyond levels it felt would generally be accepted.”
Both Sky and Channel 4 in their submissions to Ofcom stated that this level of undue prominence has not occurred since. In both rulings, Ofcom said “These images [of the superimposed clock face] dominated the screen, appeared during location shots, and were not integral to the sporting event that was the subject of the programme.”
Ofcom declared Sky’s incident as resolved, because of the steps Sky took following the broadcast, and the fact that Sky’s broadcast was live. However the body, in this instance, did not believe the inclusion of the images was justified for Channel 4’s highlights broadcast, declaring the broadcaster in breach of Rule 9.5 of Ofcom’s Broadcast Code (No undue prominence may be given in programming to a product, service or trade mark).
The body said “We took into account Channel 4’s submission about the time constraints on producing the programme. However, this was not a live programme but an edited one featuring highlights of the race. There was therefore an opportunity for these images to be edited out of the programme as broadcast. [..] We therefore concluded that the commercial references were unduly prominent, in breach of Rule 9.5.”