14 Mar OFCOM FINDS CAN’T PAY? WE’LL TAKE IT AWAY! NOT IN BREACH OVER REPEATED PROGRAMME
On 20 August 2017, Channel 5 broadcast an episode of Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away! featuring Ms Danin. The programme showed High Court Enforcement Agents (HCEAs) arriving at a health spa and walking towards the entrance of the building. The name “Shadi Danin Group” was briefly visible in large lettering over the doorway.
The HCEAs spoke to Ms Danin, the owner of the business, about her failure to repay money owed to another company following the loss of a court case which she had brought against it. The narrator stated: “After losing a court battle against three other companies, the spa owner now owes over £20,000 for legal costs. As she is taking further legal action, she thought that she didn’t have to pay this yet. The agents’ arrival is plainly a shock”.
Throughout the segment Ms Danin stated she didn’t know about the Writ and did not have the money to pay the legal costs. The HCEAs in the programme explained that she had had since February to pay the debt, reminding her she had been taken to court by three defendants on 6th February 2014.
Rather than removing her assets, one of the HCEAs suggested Ms Danin repay the debt in three instalments which she agreed to do, paying the first one over the phone.
At the end of the programme, footage of Ms Danin was repeated along with the following captions: “Spa owner Ms Danin is up to date with her repayment plan.” and “She is taking further legal action to recoup her losses.”.
A complaint brought on behalf of Ms Danin said she was treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme because it implied that she and her business were still in debt for £20,000. The complaint stressed that the fact the programme was repeated was detrimental to Ms Danin’s reputation and her business and the repetition of the programme had led to Ms Danin and her family becoming the subject of abuse.
In considering this complaint, Ofcom had particular regard to Practice 7.9 of the Code:
“Before broadcasting a factual programme, including programmes examining past events, broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy themselves that material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation…”.
Ofcom noted that the captions “Spa owner Ms Danin is up to date with her repayment plan”, and “She is taking further legal action to recoup her losses”, which appeared at the end of the programme, did not appear to have been updated since the programme was first broadcast in November 2014 as they did not explain that Ms Danin had since repaid the debt in full.
Ofcom considered however that the programme did not give the impression that Ms Danin and her business still owed £20,000 because the programme showed Ms Danin paying £6,741.83 on the day of the enforcement and agreeing to pay the remaining amount in two further monthly instalments and included reference to the debt being owed in August 2014.
Ofcom therefore considered that the broadcaster had taken reasonable care to satisfy itself material facts had not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that was unfair to Ms Danin, and that the repeat of the programme did not create unfairness to her.
This case acts as a reminder to all broadcasters that repeating programmes a long time after their original broadcast risks creating potential unfairness issues. Broadcasters should periodically review repeat broadcasts of programmes to ensure that any material change in factual circumstances does not cause unfairness to an individual and/or organisation. A consideration of the programme’s depiction of the events as a whole will be important (as in this case), but specific details such as those found in captions, may also require updating.