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26th December

 Update: Ofcom Teachings...

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Ofcom fines Noor TV 75,000 for a religious parable about killing jews
Link Here  full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
noor tv logoNoor TV is a digital satellite television channel broadcasting religious and other programming in Urdu from an Islamic perspective to audiences in the UK and internationally.

On 17 November 2015, the Licensee broadcast the second instalment of a series of four programmes which had been recorded at the Urs Nehrian festival in Pakistan that had taken place in June 2015. The programme consisted of 15 religious scholars and preachers addressing an assembled congregation with short sermons, homilies and poetic verses.

One of the speakers, Allama Mufti Muhammad Saeed Sialvi Sahib (“Allama Sialvi”), recounted a parable in which he stated that the Prophet Muhammed had given a general command to kill all Jewish people. He stated that upon hearing this command one Muslim follower had immediately killed a Jewish trader with whom he had long standing business relations. Allama Sialvi held this to be an example of the devotion and obedience of a disciple to the Prophet Muhammed and on several occasions appeared to condone the killing of a Jewish trader.

We noted that Allama Sialvi held the titles “Mufti” and “Allama”, denoting that he was a figure of religious authority within the Muslim community, and therefore someone whose views would carry some weight within the Muslim community.

We considered that Allama Sialvi's clear statement that religious obedience within the Islamic faith could be demonstrated through murder of Jewish people had the potential to be interpreted as spreading anti-Semitism, i.e. his comments could amount to a form of hate speech . In this context we were mindful of the Council of Europe's definition of' hate speech', as follows: all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin

We considered that Allama Sialvi's speech, particularly due to his standing and authority within the Muslim community, involved clear potential to cause significant offence as it held up in unequivocal terms the killing of a Jewish person as an example of devotion and obedience within the context of the Islamic faith. We also considered that the content had the potential to cause harm by portraying the murder of Jewish people in highly positive terms and promoting a highly negative anti-Semitic attitude towards Jewish people.

Ofcom's Decision is that an appropriate and proportionate sanction would be a financial penalty of £75,000. In addition, Ofcom considers that the Licensee should broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings in this case, on a date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom.

 

20th December

  Serious offence...

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Ofcom considers sanctions for Afghanistan news channel that aired German train terrorist's threatening hate speech without challenge or censure
Link Here  full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check

ariana news logoAriana News
Ariana International, 20 July 2016, 12:00I

Ariana International is a general entertainment channel originating from Afghanistan, and broadcast by satellite in the UK.

Ofcom noted a news item relating to Muhammad Riyad, a 17-year old, who was described as said to be an Afghan . He had injured five people when he attacked a train, armed with a knife and axe, in Wuerzburg, Germany in July 2016.

A video was then broadcast which showed Muhammad Riyad talking straight to camera and at times brandishing a knife. The video lasted approximately two minutes and 15 seconds, and Muhammad Riyad said the following:

...Inshallah Mujahids from Islamic State will reach you everywhere. Inshallah you will be slaughtered in your homes. Inshallah they will enter your homes, enter your land, and on the streets. Inshallah you will not be safe in your homes, your villages, your towns and inshallah, and in every street in every airport inshallah. The Islamic State has enough strength to get you everywhere, even in your parliament [vigorously waving knife at camera]. I am living here amongst you and inshallah I have made a plan to deal with you here in your homes inshallah. I tell you, that I will slaughter you in your homes. I promise you that I will make you forget about France...

The news show made no further comments after the speech and moved on to the next item

Ofcom considered the following rules:

  • Rule 2.3: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...”.

  • Rule 3.1: “Material likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services”.

  • Rule 3.2: “Material which contains hate speech14 must not be included in television and radio programmes except where it is justified by the context”.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of rules 2.3, 3.1, 3.2

Ofcom considered the audience would have interpreted Muhammad Riyad's various comments as promoting and justifying hatred and violence towards the persons who did not conform to his definition of Islam. In Ofcom's view, this was a clear example of hate speech, as defined by the Code.

Given the very strong nature of the material in this case, we considered that, under the Code, there would need to be extremely clear and strong context provided to justify the broadcast of the video featuring Muhammad Riyad. Our Decision was that that there was clearly insufficient context to justify the inclusion of hate speech in this broadcast, and Rule 3.2 was therefore breached.

Breaches of Section Three of the Code, in particular, are very serious because they involve the potential for serious harm. Ofcom considered all of the breaches in this case to be very serious.

Due to the highly challenging and potentially harmful nature of the content broadcast, we are putting the Licensee on notice that we will consider these very serious breaches for the imposition of a statutory sanction.

Breaches of Rules 2.3, 3.1 and 3.2

 

10th December

  Strictly Censorship...

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Ofcom publishes further details about how TV censorship of the BBC will work
Link Here

Ofcom logoOfcom has set out how it will take on regulation of the BBC from next April.

This will see the biggest reform of the governance and regulation of the BBC since it was founded.

The Government has decided that a new BBC unitary board will govern and run the BBC, and ultimately be responsible for editorial and management decisions.

Ofcom will become the new external regulator of the BBC. Our job will be to hold the BBC to account.

We have published a statement explaining how we will prepare to undertake our new regulatory duties from the planned effective date, 3 April 2017.

Ofcom's approach to regulating the BBC

As the new external regulator, Ofcom will bring its experience of regulating the wider broadcast and communications sector at a time of increasing convergence.

Ofcom already has roles across many of the BBC's services, from content standards to competition. These new responsibilities broaden the scope of Ofcom's existing work.

Regulation of the BBC will sit within Ofcom's existing teams and will focus on three core areas as laid out in the Charter: content standards; protecting fair and effective competition; and reviewing the BBC's performance.

In order to carry out our new duties effectively and efficiently, and to provide clarity to audiences and the wider sector, we will :

  • Proceed from our principal duty -- as with all our work, our principal objective is to further the interests of citizens and consumers;

  • Recognise that the BBC is the cornerstone of public service broadcasting in the UK -- the BBC has a special status, but we won't give it special treatment;

  • Recognise that responsibility for governance lies with the new BBC Board -- it is for the BBC Board, rather than Ofcom, to determine how to deliver the mission and purposes defined in the Charter. The Board must set the BBC's editorial guidelines. We will hold the BBC to account;

  • Make good use of our depth of knowledge and experience -- we have experience of regulating the broadcasting sector, as well as existing roles in relation to the BBC in the key areas of content standards, competition and performance;

  • Consult widely -- ensure the views of citizens, consumers and stakeholders feed into our work; and

  • Be clear about our expectations and requirements of the BBC -- provide clarity on how we will address issues if things go wrong, to provide certainty to the BBC, its audiences and the wider sector.

Public consultations

In the coming months, Ofcom will develop an 'Operating Framework' for the BBC. This will ultimately contain all of the elements of our regulation across the BBC's content standards, competition and performance.

The Operating Framework will set out the regulatory tools that Ofcom will use to hold the BBC to account. There will be separate consultations on the finer details of our role over the coming, which fall into the following broad categories:

1. Content standards

Viewers and listeners should be able to trust what they see and hear. They should know that steps have been taken to avoid unjustified offence, and that protection from harmful content is in place. Ofcom will set content standards for the BBC so that its viewers and listeners are adequately protected.

The previous Charter and Agreement gave Ofcom shared regulatory oversight of some of the BBC's content standards with the BBC Trust, which will close when Ofcom takes on its new role. The new arrangement hands Ofcom regulatory responsibility for content standards on BBC broadcasting and on-demand programme services including, for the first time, for the accuracy and impartiality of BBC news and current affairs programmes. Ofcom will be updating the rules in its Broadcasting Code to fulfil these new responsibilities.

Ofcom will also create procedures for handling complaints about BBC content standards, and for conducting our investigations and sanctions.

Additionally, we will publish procedures explaining how audiences will be able to obtain an independent opinion from Ofcom on whether the BBC has observed relevant editorial guidelines for online material in its UK Public Services.

2. Protecting fair and effective competition

Fair and effective competition is good for viewers and listeners. It can increase choice and stimulate investment and innovation -- ensuring the provision of a wide range of high-quality and varied programmes, and different ways to access them.

Ofcom will assess the effect of the BBC's activities on audiences and the UK media sector, and set rules as to how the BBC should behave.

We will also impose requirements on the BBC to avoid the relationship between its public-service activities and commercial subsidiaries distorting the market, or creating an unfair competitive advantage for the BBC's subsidiaries.

3. Performance -- holding the BBC to account

Ofcom is currently developing a set of tools to regulate the BBC's performance. This will include an Operating Licence for the BBC's UK public services and may include any performance measures we consider appropriate, further to those set by the BBC, we will consult on this over the course of next year.

As explained in the Charter, we will have a particular focus on assessing the distinctiveness of the BBC's output. We will also hold the BBC to account in relation to its obligations to serve audiences in all four of the UK's nations and for diversity.

As part of the approach to performance, we expect to carry out both ad hoc and periodic reviews of the BBC's services.

 

28th November

  Censoring the Pope for being a catholic...

Ofcom censors Fox News for political bias
Link Here

hannityHannity
Fox News, 2, 5 and 6 August 2016, 03:00

Fox News is a news channel originating in the USA, broadcast on the digital satellite platform and licensed by Ofcom in the UK.

Hannity is a live current affairs programme, presented by Sean Hannity, that discusses and analyses political and news stories.

During routine monitoring, Ofcom identified three one hour programmes which were broadcast in the US at 22:00 Eastern Standard Time and simultaneously in the UK at 03:00. The programmes included a number of statements relating to the 2016 US Presidential election. Our concern in this case was whether these three programmes were duly impartial in their coverage of the US Presidential election campaign.

Ofcom then cited pages of examples of pro Trump bias eg the following exchange in an interview with Trump:

Khizr Khan, a US citizen of Pakistani origin received widespread media attention for criticising Donald Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Hannity : When you talk about refugees, illegal immigration, you're not talking about people like the Khans. For example, James Clapper, our National Director of Intelligence, our CIA Director, or FBI Director, Assistant FBI Director, our Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and even General John Allen, Obama's special envoy to defeat ISIS: They have all warned us that the refugees that Obama's taking in -- and Hillary wants a 550% increase -- that refugee population will be infiltrated. Are you clear you are not talking about the Khans, you're talking about what these people are saying?

Trump : No, I'm not talking about the Khans, I'm not talking about a lot of people. I'm talking about people coming over here from Syria that aren't properly vetted, their immigration, nobody knows if they're ISIS, they don't know who they are. They're being put all over the country. Hillary wants a 550% increase over what Obama's bringing in. Obama's bringing them in by the thousands, by the thousands, and she wants to bring them in 550% more. I think it's insane. Now I also think that what we should do is build safe zones over in Syria, have the Gulf states pay for it. They've got plenty of money. They're not doing their job right nowâ?¦We have to get back to rebuilding our country, rebuild our infrastructure, create jobs, take jobs away from Mexico and all these countries that are taking our jobs.

Ofcom considered Rule 6.1:

The rules in Section Five, in particular the rules relating to matters of major political or industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy, apply to the coverage of elections and referendums.

And the section 5 rules considered were:

Rule 5.11: In addition to the rules above, due impartiality must be preserved on matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy by the person providing a service (listed above) in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes.

Rule 5.12: In dealing with matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes. Views and facts must not be misrepresented.

Ofcom then spent several more pages analysing the bleedin' obvious, that Hannity (and Fox News in general) were heavily biased in favour of Trump. Ofcom concluded:

In these programmes, we considered that there were a large number of positive viewpoints expressed about Mr Trump and his campaign, coupled with the fact that Hillary Clinton and her candidacy were strongly criticised. As already mentioned above, this meant that there was an overwhelmingly one-sided view on a matter of major political controversy and major matter relating to current public policy, i.e. the policies and actions of the two principal candidates contesting the 2016 US Presidential Election.

For the reasons set out above, our Decision was that this material had clearly breached Rule 6.1 (and Rules 5.11 and 5.12).

 

23rd November

  Slaves to PC...

Ofcom walk on PC eggshells to humour complainants about a Coronation Street pun on Alex Hailey's Roots
Link Here  full story: Coronation Street...Complaints and whinges

Roots Alex HaleyCoronation Street ITV,
29 August 2016, 19:30

Coronation Street is a long-running and well-established soap opera on ITV.

Ofcom received 473 complaints about a comment by the character Eva Price during a scene in the local hair salon. Looking at her dyed hair, she said:

Yeah, look [pointing at her hair] I've got more roots than Kunte Kinte. No idea who that is by the way, it's summat my mum used to say.

Kunte Kinte is the lead character in Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family which was later adapted into a popular television series called Roots. The story chronicles the life of an 18th century African man who was captured and sold into slavery in the United States.

The complainants considered the play on the word roots was unacceptable as the basis for a joke given the subject matter of the Alex Haley story, and therefore felt that the comment was racially offensive.

Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 of the Code:

In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the contextâ?¦ Such material may include, but is not limited to... discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of...race...). Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.

Ofcom Decision: Not in breach

Ofcom first considered whether the comment in this particular scene had the potential to cause offence. Slavery and ethnicity are subjects that broadcasters should approach with due caution, especially when they are referred to in a light-hearted context which could result in sensitivities being heightened. In Ofcom's view, viewers who were aware of the Alex Haley story or the Roots series would have been likely to associate Eva's reference to Kunte Kinte with the story, and with slavery. In the light-hearted context in which the remark was made, we considered that this reference to slavery had the potential to offend viewers.

Ofcom went on to consider if the broadcast of the material was justified by the context.

Eva Price's comment was a play on the word roots , which referred to both the colour of her hair at its roots and, through the reference to Kunte Kinte, the title of the 1970s television series. Although the series is well known for depicting the African slave trade in 18th century America, we noted that Eva's comment did not mention this at all. She only referred to the title of the television series and name of its lead character. We took into account, in particular, that at no point was language broadcast which referred directly to ethnicity or slavery, or in Ofcom's view, was derogatory or discriminatory.

Ofcom also took into account Eva's subsequent remark that she did not understand who Kunte Kinte was, and that she was repeating the phrase because it was something her mother used to say. This reflected the foolishness, and lack of sensitivity and cultural awareness, of her character. For her to speak in this thoughtless fashion without understanding what she was referring to, or that it might cause offence, was likely to have been consistent with the audience's expectations of her character.

We acknowledged that relatively high number of viewers complained to Ofcom, and that some viewers clearly felt very strongly about the remarks in this case. We noted the measures taken by ITV to mitigate the potential offence to these viewers by: writing to all complainants who contacted it directly, making a public statement to the press apologising if the remark had caused any unintended offence, and removing the phrase from subsequent broadcasts of the episode.

Having taking into account all the above factors, we were of the view that this potentially offensive material was justified by the context. Therefore, the material was not in breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.

 

22nd November

  In an effort to demonstrate just how grown up and sophisticated we've become...

...Ofcom has added its voice to the lynch mob of censors whingeing at a joke about the Queen
Link Here

dont make me laughDon't Make Me Laugh
BBC Radio 4, 21 April 2016, 18:30

Don't Make Me Laugh is a comedy show, hosted by David Baddiel. A panel of comedians taking part in the programme are asked to talk about why a subject is not funny, without making the audience laugh. If the audience does laugh, the subject passes to the next contestant.

Ofcom received 12 complaints about the episode broadcast on 21 April 2016 which featured a discussion about the Queen and sex. Complainants considered that references to the Queen in the programme were offensive and inappropriate. A number of complaints referred to the fact that the programme was broadcast on the Queen's 90th birthday.

The panel of comedians on this programme were Russell Kane, Sara Pascoe, Omid Djalili, and Adam Hess.

Round two of the show was introduced by David Baddiel:

In an effort to demonstrate just how grown up and sophisticated we've become, I would like you Russell Kane to tell us why there is nothing funny about the fact that Announcer: the Queen must have had sex at least four times [laughter from the studio audience].

The panel of comedians responded by making a number of personal comments about Prince Philip and the Queen. For example, Russell Kane said the following:

Four times we have to think of republicanism as we imagine four children emerging from Her Majesty's vulva and for me [audience laughter].

Ofcom considered its Rule 2.3:

In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of rule 2.3

Throughout this segment of the programme, the panel made a number of comments about the Queen in an effort to explain why the subject of that round of the programme was not funny. We considered that comments about the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were made in a mocking way, which would have been perceived by many listeners as humiliating and intrusive. Ofcom took into account that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are public figures with wide exposure in the media. Nonetheless, we considered that the mocking and demeaning tone of these comments made them capable of causing offence. The potential for offence was increased by the fact that these remarks were broadcast on the Queen's 90th birthday.

Ofcom took into account that audiences expect some comedy programming to be challenging and to push at boundaries. However, the reaction of the audience to comedy material is subjective and can vary widely. In this case, the jokes about the Queen were made in a way that was mocking and demeaning. The fact that these jokes were made on her 90th birthday, in Ofcom's view, would have considerably increased the level of offence for many listeners. Furthermore, the level of potential offence was also increased to some extent by the fact this programme was pre-recorded, so that the BBC's editorial decision to broadcast this content on this day was likely to have been perceived by listeners as deliberate and not the result of for example an inadvertent misjudgement made during a live programme.

In Ofcom's view, it is likely that Radio 4 listeners would not have expected comedic content about the Queen of this strength and directness to be included in a Radio 4 comedy programme broadcast in the early evening on her 90th birthday.

We considered also that, for all these reasons, any listeners who had come across this content unawares may well have been surprised and disconcerted to hear it broadcast on Radio 4 at this time, on the Queen's 90th birthday.

The broadcast of this potentially offensive material was not justified by the context, and there was a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.

 

20th November

 Offsite Article: Ofcom's Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2016...

Link Here  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
Ofcom logoUse of network level website blocking systems has increased since 2015 among parents of 5-15s. Around a third now use them (33% for parents of 3-4s and 31% for parents of 5-15s).

See article from ofcom.org.uk

 

12th November

 Update: Anything but peace...

Ofcom fines islamic TV channel for bad mouthing jews
Link Here  full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
  peace tv logoBritain's TV censor, Ofcom, has fined Peace TV Urdu £65,000 for discriminatory remarks about the jewish community.

Peace TV Urdu is part of  Zakir Naik's Peace TV group based in India. The group is currently under Indian government scrutiny and the process has been initiated to declare them terrorist entities under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The channel is also banned in Bangladesh after the Dhaka Terror Attack on advice of the internal security agencies.

Ofcom found the broadcast of the public lectures by an Islamic scholar highly critical and potentially offensive to the Jewish people. This was broadcast on September 12 and 13 on Peace TV Urdu.

Ofcom highlighted a number of discriminatory remarks made about the Jewish people as an ethnic group in the lectures delivered by Islamic scholar Israr Ahmed who died in April 2010. The role and actions of the Jewish people through history from c.1500 to the present day were examined in the lectures that had comments like this cursed people, this cursed race , found to be offensive under Ofcom's rules.

Ofcom observes that the breach of the code was serious as the content included numerous examples of overwhelmingly negative and stereotypical references to Jewish people which, in its view, were a form of hate speech.  The sanctions document notes:

Ofcom was concerned that the highly critical and negative statements made about Jewish people , uninterrupted by an individual likely to be held in high status by the viewers of Peace TV Urdu had the clear potential to cause harm by portraying Jewish people in highly negative terms.

Peace TV expressed its sincere regret and acknowledged that the programme should not have been broadcast.

Ofcom logo

Ofcom

Office of Communications

A regulator with multiple roles. Roles of Interest to Melon Farmers are:

  • TV censors for nearly all radio/TV/cable/satellite except for the BBC

  • Internet censors for Video on Demand. This task has been delegated to ATVOD  but Ofcom retain teh absiolute authority

  • Internet censors for copyright/file sharing issues

  • Advert Censors for the limited role of TV channels which exist mainly to advertise premium rate telephone services (such as babe channels)

Websites:
www.ofcom.org.uk

Melon Farmers Pages:
Ofcom Watch
File sharing at Ofcom