SNP political broadcast 'unfair' to farmer, regulator Ofcom rules

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The broadcast featuring the farmer aired on BBC One Scotland on 12 October 2016

A Scottish National Party political broadcast unfairly featured footage of an East Lothian farmer, regulator Ofcom has ruled.

The item, aired on BBC One Scotland on 12 October 2016, featured John Shedden sitting on a straw bale.

Although aware of the recording, Mr Shedden said he was told it was for a Scottish government information film.

Ofcom recognised that he was not a supporter of the SNP and he had not given his “informed consent”.

The watchdog upheld the complaint from Mr Shedden saying: “We considered that the inclusion of the footage of Mr Shedden in a party political broadcast, for a party which he did not support, without his informed consent, resulted in material facts [ie his political views] being presented in the broadcast in a manner that resulted in unfairness to him.”

No written consent

The BBC said that the content of such films was primarily the responsibility of the parties themselves, subject to compliance with the relevant editorial standards.

The broadcaster’s guidelines state: “No identifiable individual should be featured prominently in a broadcast without that person’s consent, which should generally be recorded in writing, and copies of release forms should be made available to the broadcaster on request.”

The BBC said that from the information provided by the SNP and the programme makers, there had been no written consent from Mr Shedden.

The SNP said the film had been made by a “highly professional and reliable” company which it had used for more than a decade to produce party political and election broadcasts.

The purpose of the broadcast was to show a “slice of life” featuring a cross section of people from various walks of life.

The programme makers said Mr Shedden was contacted by a freelance location finder who wrongly referred to the project as an information programme for the Scottish government, rather than for the SNP.

Apology issued

Party officials said the first they became aware that there was an informed consent issue was on 1 November 2016, when an inquiry was received from a journalist.

Following an investigation, the SNP released a statement saying: “The film production company accepts it made an error and we understand that they will, rightly, be apologising to Mr Shedden.”

Ofcom said the SNP arranged with the programme makers, the BBC, and others that Mr Shedden’s scene would not to be re-broadcast and would be removed from the BBC iPlayer.

The programme makers said they had assumed that on the day of filming Mr Shedden had been aware of the nature of the broadcast.

They added that following the incident they had tightened up their procedures and would provide all permissions, contracts and licences to the BBC when submitting political and election broadcasts.

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