CNN broke broadcast rules with sponsored programme

CNN International has been criticised by Ofcom after it broke UK broadcasting rules by accepting sponsorship for one of its current affairs shows.

A viewer complained to the broadcasting watchdog that the 29 September edition of CNN International’s show, Inside Africa, breached regulations as it was sponsored by Zenith Bank.

The CNN International website described the show as “a weekly, half-hour, current affairs program that provides global viewers with an inside look at political, economic, social and cultural affairs and trends in Africa”.

When approached by Ofcom about the breach, CNN’s owners Turner said the programme had covered issues “of a current affairs nature” but there had been “a recent inadvertent editorial shift” in the nature of the programme.

CNN International, which is broadcast in the UK on freeview, cable and satellite, is the global news offshoot of the US-based CNN news channel.

According to Ofcom, sponsorship of current affairs programming is outlawed in the UK to “support the important principle that news and current affairs must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

“A broadcaster’s editorial control over the content of its news and current affairs programming should not be, or appear to be, compromised.”

Ofcom said today that Turner had reminded the editorial team responsible for the Inside Africa programme of the relevant rules in relation to sponsorship and that it “intends to retrain all relevant members of staff including those based in Africa”.

Turner told Ofcom CNN’s lead producer would also be relocated from the network’s headquarters in Atlanta to Johannesburg to “help to ensure the show stays true to its editorial mission as…feature programming focussing on African culture”.

Finding CNN in breach of its code, Ofcom said the breach would be held on record in relation to the licences issued to broadcast the channel in the UK. No further action was taken.

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