The Islam Channel’s Ofcom’s decision unchanged


20th December 2011    9:09

In a revised conclusion by Ofcom, the media regulator has replaced its earlier decision it made on The Islam Channel’s breaches from 2009.

In 2010, The Islam Channel was found in breach by Ofcom for two shows, which broke impartiality rules.

In respect of ‘Ummah Talk’, the Due Impartiality Decision concluded that the programme did not contain any alternative views which could reasonably and adequately be classed as supportive of, or which sought to explain, the policies and actions of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in relation to the Goldstone Report, or of the Israeli government towards Palestine, including its treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

In respect of ‘Politics and Beyond’, the Due Impartiality Decision concluded that there were no viewpoints presented which could reasonably be portrayed as coming from an Israeli perspective in relation to the issues of war crimes alleged to have been committed by Israel in Gaza in January 2009, and the possibility of arrest for war crimes of Israeli politicians visiting other countries such as the UK.

The Islam Channel had put forward a case to Ofcom that the Due Impartiality Decision was materially flawed and that there was a compelling reason why a review should be granted.

In accordance with the Procedures, Ofcom therefore referred the case to the Broadcasting Review Committee.

The Committee took account of the difficulty The Islam Channel stated it faces in finding guests to represent the viewpoint of the Israeli government. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, however, a matter of political controversy and the Islam Channel, in presenting these issues, was therefore obliged to ensure some discussion of the policies and actions of the Israeli government which represented its viewpoint. This could have been achieved, for example, by putting that viewpoint forward through presenters‟ comments or questions to programme guests.

The Committee stressed that the broadcasting of highly critical comments concerning the policies and actions of a state (as in these programmes) is not, in itself, a breach of the Code rules on due impartiality.

The Committee therefore considered that both ‘Ummah Talk’ and ‘Politics and Beyond’ were in breach.

Similarly in 2010, The Islam Channel challenged another decision Ofcom had made on one of its shows.

‘Muslimah Dilemma’ broke rules of causing offence after the channel felt Ofcom misinterpreted comments made by a studio guest. The Islam Channel had put forward a case that the Offence Decision in relation to Muslimah Dilemma was materially flawed due to a mistake of fact and that there was a compelling reason why the review should be granted. In accordance with the Procedures, Ofcom therefore referred the case to the Broadcasting Review Committee.

In considering the material, the Committee noted the broadcaster’s strongly-made representations that neither the programme‟s guests and presenter, nor the Islam Channel, condone or encourage marital rape. However, in order to decide whether the material was potentially harmful or offensive, the Committee had to consider the material as broadcast and whether, on the basis of what was said and in context, that content was potentially harmful and offensive.

The Islam Channel argued that the fact the programme never expressly stated that marital rape was condoned meant that it raised no issues under the Code. However, the Committee found that in view of the lack of any mediating or alternative views on sexual relations within marriage, and any clear condemnation of forced sexual relations within marriage, the potentially harmful and offensive material was not justified by the context and therefore did not comply with Rule 2.3.

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