Ofcom has criticised ITV's sponsorship agreement with the Home Office for its Beat: Life on the Street series.

The broadcaster aired two series of the series, in late 2006 and early 2008, both of which were fully funded by the Home Office. The series followed the work of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Oxford and Lancashire.

Two complainants, who became aware of the Home Office's involvement with the series following press reports, objected that the programmes, made by Twofour, were essentially government “propaganda” and that the Home Office's relationship with the series should have been made clear to viewers.

Channel TV, which complied the programmes on behalf of ITV Network, told Ofcom that the Home Office had no influence over the content of the show or its place in the schedule.

It added that the sponsor credits made it clear that the programme had been made with the assistance of government funding. This comprised the visual strapline “Let's Keep Crime Down - In Association with Beat: Life on the Street” and the Home Office logo being displayed on-screen for around three seconds.

The regulator accepted there was no evidence to suggest that the Home Office influenced the content of the programme in a way that would compromise the independence of the broadcaster.

But it ruled that the overriding tone of the programmes was supportive and likely to leave viewers with a favourable impression of the PCSO service.

Given that the Home Office sponsored the series, and that the PCSO service is at least an indirect interest of the Home Office, Ofcom decided the programmes were promotional, and therefore contravened its sponsorship rules.

The regulator also ruled that the credits, including “Let's Keep Crime Down” and “Keep It Safe, Keep it Hidden”, did not tell viewers who the sponsor was clearly enough.

It said the Home Office's role and relationship with the series, as its sponsor, was not made sufficiently clear.