Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

BBC in More Hot Water For Olympic Logo Footage

Ofcom has sanctioned the BBC for showing some footage of the 2012 Olympic logo that, according to a Media Guardian article "could have triggered epileptic seizures."

According to the Ofcom ruling, "Ofcom received 8 complaints regarding the transmission of the video logo designedfor the 2012 London Olympics during three separate news bulletins on BBC1 on 4and 6 June 2007. The images were broadcast as part of a report on the launch of the 2012 Olympics logo. The complainants included the British Epilepsy Association. The complainants were all concerned that broadcast of part of the animated 2012 logo, as part of the news reports, was harmful because of its likelihood to cause epileptic seizures. Certain types of flashing images may trigger seizures in viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy (“PSE”). The Code therefore contains rules aimed at minimising the risk to viewers who have photosensitive epilepsy. Rule 2.13 of the Code states that “Broadcasters must take precautions to maintain a low level of risk to viewers who have PSE. Where it is not reasonably practicable to follow the Ofcom guidance (see the Ofcom website), and where broadcasters can demonstrate that the broadcasting of flashing lights and/or patterns is editorially justified, viewers should be given an adequate verbal and also, if appropriate, text warning at the start of the programme or programme item”. On 4 June 2007, the BBC transmitted part of the Olympics video with a sequence of images containing rapid flashing images. Therefore the BBC was asked to comment on the compliance of this broadcast with Rule 2.13. While the broadcast of 6 June 2007 contained images from the Olympic video, it did not transmit what appeared to be the more problematic sequence of flashing images."


"The BBC explained that the news item in question covered the launch of the Olympics logo, which was a significant news event, and that the logo was featured as part of that event. It said that whilst the logo had been described in advance as dynamic and moving, no indication had been given to the BBC that it might be problematic. It said that its expectation in this case had been that a major public body launching a promotion such as this to the public would already have taken steps to ensure compliance and that the graphics would have been tested for photosensitivity and be safe for it to broadcast. The BBC said it would not normally expect to test such images before broadcast."


Ofcom ruled that "...In view of the potential harm which certain material can cause to PSE sufferers, broadcasters must exercise care when dealing with sequences which contain. Ofcom tested the excerpt of the promotional video for the 2012 Olympics transmitted in the 4 June 2007 news bulletin. It found that the majority was unproblematic. However, a brief diving sequence of 45 frames (around 2 seconds in length) contained an excessive number of ‘flashes’ that were clearly in breach of the guidelines. The BBC stated that it was not given time to assess the material in advance, and it would not normally expect to test such images before broadcast. However, irrespective of the source, it is the responsibility of the broadcaster to ensure that flashing images. Content which contains rapid scene cuts and/or where there is a change in screen brightness between cuts, should be reviewed with special care material it transmits complies with Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. This responsibility is particularly important where there is the potential for harm to viewers. The broadcast of this material was therefore in breach of Rule 2.13."

Read the entire ruling here.

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