Sky was forced to delay the broadcast for the latest instalment of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight HBO show over fears that the comedian’s call for Britain to remain in the EU would breach Ofcom’s impartiality guidelines.
The broadcaster moved the airing of the show from the usual Monday night slot after Game of Thrones to Thursday (23 June) at 10:10pm, just after the polls close for the EU referendum.
John Oliver’s humorous 15 minute diatribe on why the UK should remain part of the EU has been hugely popular across social media since it was posted to Youtube on Sunday (19 June) and has since accumulated over 4.7 million views.
During the segment addressing Brexit Oliver said: "Here is how I feel about the EU: it is a complicated, bureaucratic, ambitious, overbearing, inspirational and consistently irritating institution, and Britain would be absolutely crazy to leave it especially because, if it stays, it can reap all the benefits while still being a total dick about everything. And that’s the British way.”
When questioned about the decision to move the broadcast a Sky spokesperson said: "Sky have complied with the Ofcom broadcasting restrictions at times of elections and referendums that prohibit us showing this section of the programme at this moment in time. We will be able to show it once the polls close have closed on Thursday."
While Sky maintains it is adhering to Ofcom's code of conduct, Twitter users took a different view and were largely angered by the decision.
I want to believe that Rupert Murdoch is actually scared of John Oliver https://t.co/eIcx2rcg6M — Sonic The Comic (@sonic_the_comic) June 22, 2016
Why is @LastWeekTonight with John Oliver not on Sky Atlantic this week, when this is the most relevant episode to UK.
— Kyle Fitzpatrick (@Kjfitzdude) June 20, 2016
John Oliver does a piece on #Brexit but mysteriously the episode will not be shown on Murdoch owned @skyatlantic until after referendum. Yep — Chris Hardiman (@AJoyForever83) June 20, 2016
The restrictions during elections and referendums are governed by Ofcom’s Section Five (which focuses on Due Impartiality) and Section Six (covering Elections and Referendums) code which is intended to broadcasters imparting their biases and influencing the public vote.