Channel Nine UK has been rapped by media regulator Ofcom after it received a complaint about a news report about the protests then taking place in Bangladesh concerning the International Crimes Tribunal.
In particular, the complainant considered that the news broadcast was biased in the manner it reported allegations that members of a Bangladeshi political party, Jamaat-e-Islami were involved in the killing of a ��Shahbag Movement�۪ blogger Rajib Haider.
In conclusion, Runners TV (company name of Channel Nine) said that ���all efforts within our control are given to broadcast in a non-bias[ed] way�, and it ���will continue to monitor the news content and also the suitability of the content for viewers�.
Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a statutory duty to set standards for broadcast content as appear to it best calculated to secure the standards objectives, including that news on television and radio services is presented with due impartiality. This objective is reflected in Section Five of the Code.
Ofcom recognises that Section Five of the Code, which sets out how due impartiality must be preserved, acts to limit to some extent freedom of expression. This is because its application necessarily requires broadcasters to ensure, for example, that neither side of a debate relating to matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy is unduly favoured. Therefore, while any Ofcom licensee should have the freedom to discuss any controversial subject or include particular points of view in its programming, in doing so broadcasters must always comply with the Code.
In reaching decisions concerning due impartiality, Ofcom underlines that the broadcasting of comments either criticising or supporting the policies and actions of any government, state or political organisations is not, in itself, a breach of due impartiality. Any broadcaster may do this provided it complies with the Code. However, depending on the specific circumstances of any particular case, it may be necessary to reflect alternative viewpoints in an appropriate way in order to ensure that Section Five is complied with.
Rule 5.1 of the Code states that: ���News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality�.
In this case, Ofcom noted that in the news bulletin in question there was a lengthy (around 15 minutes) report on serious disturbances in Bangladesh which had been sparked by the decisions of the ICT. In particular, the news report focused on the on-going Shahbag protests taking place in Bangladesh, including reaction to the death of the Shahbag protester, Rajib Haider.
We recognise that this item of news dealt with a story and issue of interest to the UK Bangladeshi community in particular. The news item related to the on-going demonstrations and political disturbances in Bangladesh arising from the activities of the ICT. It is important that broadcasters ��� in recognition of their and the audience�۪s right to freedom of expression ��� are able to report such stories to their viewers or listeners. As indicated above, the Code does not in any way prohibit news programmes from including views that are critical of particular organisations, such as political parties, however that news must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.
Ofcom considered that there were a number of statements which could be reasonably characterised as being critical of the Jamaat Party in this news item. For example, we noted that the news item included reference to: various calls, including from the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, to ban the Jamaat Party; and allegations of violence undertaken by members of the Jamaat Party members during demonstrations in Bangladesh. In particular, the news item reported allegations that the Jamaat party had been responsible for the death of the Shahbag protester, Rajib Haider
Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin, Issue 233
Ofcom noted that at no point did the report reflect the Jamaat Party�۪s viewpoint on the statements being made against it, nor did it even suggest that the Jamaat party had at any point been asked to comment. Given the critical and serious nature of the statements made about this party, we considered it was incumbent on the Licensee to ensure that the Jamaat Party�۪s viewpoint was presented in the news item to at least some extent to counter the universally critical or adverse statements made in the report about the Jamaat party, for example, calling for the banning of this political party in Bangladesh.
In reaching a decision in this case, Ofcom took into account the Licensee�۪s various representations.