Film showing penguin beaten to death aired before 9pm because of ‘unusual human error’

lord lebedev
London Live is backed by Evening Standard owner Lord Lebedev - JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Lord Lebedev’s TV station has been censured by Ofcom over a pre-watershed film that showed a penguin being beaten to death.

London Live, which is owned by the Russian-born billionaire, aired the 1987 crime drama Five Corners starring Jodie Foster on three separate afternoons in March.

The film, which has an age rating of 15, depicts a psychotic man who returns to his New York neighbourhood after being released from prison and sets out to find the young woman he previously attempted to rape.

The film features instances of strong and discriminatory language, references to recreational drug use and an underlying theme of sexual violence throughout.

There are also numerous violent scenes, including a man being fatally shot in the back with an arrow, a woman being thrown out of a window and a penguin being beaten to death with a baseball bat.

The 1987 violent crime drama Five Corners starring Jodie Foster (left) was aired on three separate afternoons by London Live
The 1987 violent crime drama Five Corners starring Jodie Foster (left) was aired on three separate afternoons by London Live - Handmade/Kobal/Shutterstock

Ofcom received three complaints about the film, which aired at around 1pm and 3pm on three occasions, over concerns it was inappropriate for children.

Broadcaster failed in responsibilities to protect children

Following a review, the regulator ruled that the channel was in breach of rules prohibiting the broadcast of offensive language before the 9pm watershed.

It also found that the broadcaster had failed in its responsibilities to protect children from unsuitable material through appropriate scheduling.

London Live owner ESTV acknowledged the breaches, which it blamed on an “unusual human error”, and said it was “deeply concerned about this lapse”.

The channel apologised to Ofcom for the incident and said that it had “implemented all necessary measures to ensure error-free broadcasting of this title in the future”.

It added that it had begun a thorough check on similar titles acquired for post-watershed broadcast.

London Live, which is backed by Evening Standard owner Lord Lebedev, launched in 2014 with the aim of providing local news and current affairs programming for the capital.

London Live failed to challenge consipiracy theorist

The channel had a previous run-in with Ofcom in 2020 after it aired an 80-minute interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke about the pandemic.

The regulator said Mr Icke’s comments about the causes of Covid-19 and the Government’s official health advice had the potential to cause “significant harm” to viewers, adding that they were made without any scientific evidence and went largely unchallenged.

ESTV made a pre-tax profit of £2.9m in 2022 but this fell short of its net liabilities of just over £3m, according to its latest available accounts.

Auditors warned the company was dependent on one key customer contract and required continuous financial support from Lord Lebedev, adding that there was uncertainty over his ability to keep providing this support.

As a result, auditors warned of “material uncertainty” that may cast “significant doubt” on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.

It comes amid deep cost-cutting at Lord Lebedev’s Evening Standard, which has outlined plans to cut roughly 150 jobs as it prepares to shut down its daily print newspaper and move to a proposed weekly edition.

Bosses are hoping to stem losses after the shift to home working and rise of WiFi on the London Underground hammered the freesheet’s readership.

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