BBC News clip 'could have triggered epileptic fit'

Ofcom has criticised BBC News for broadcasting a video clip about the London Olympics which could have triggered an epileptic seizure.

The regulator received eight complaints about the report, broadcast on 4 June, about the newly-unveiled logo for the London Olympic games in 2012.

The complainants said the clip, which showed an animated version of the new logo with rapid flashing images, was unsuitable for viewers suffering from epilepsy. Among the complainants was the British Epilepsy Association.

Ofcom’s code states that broadcasters “must take precautions to maintain a low level of risk to viewers who have photosensitive epilepsy”. Where the use of flashing lights or patterns is “editorially justified”, viewers must be warned in advance.

In its defence, the BBC said it had not been given any indication that the logo might be problematic, and had broadcast the clip “in good faith” as part of its coverage of a “significant news event”.

It said it expected that a major public body – the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – would have “already taken the steps to ensure compliance and that the graphics would have been tested and be safe for it to broadcast”.

Upholding the complaints, the regulator said broadcasters “must exercise care when dealing with sequences which contain flashing images” and that when it tested the clip, a 45-frame sequence (roughly two seconds) contained “an excessive number of flashes”.

“It is the responsibility of the broadcaster to ensure that material it transmits complies with the code,” Ofcom said. “This responsibility is particularly important where there is potential for harm to viewers.”

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