Noor TV has been fined a hefty 75,000 after it broadcast a show allowing viewers to donate money to the channel in return for prayers for themselves or for their relatives.
A complainant was concerned that a programme exploited the audience by encouraging viewers to donate money to Noor TV in return for the channel arranging special prayers inside Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina. The complainant noted that many of the callers who donated money asked for prayers to be made to assist with their medical, financial and personal problems.
The presenter appealed to viewers to make donations to the channel on the basis that they would be rewarded through prayers made for or on behalf of the donor. The presenter encouraged viewers to pay Noor TV money for these prayers and viewers or their relatives would enjoy improved health, wealth or success as a result. Having viewed the programme and the pledges made by viewers during it, Ofcom calculated that a total of 7,670, 200 and 3,500 Norwegian krone was pledged by viewers in return for prayers.
The broadcaster said that a large number of pledges were not honoured and indicated that this may be a possible reason for the discrepancy between the amount of money which appeared to be raised during the appeal and the amount of money Noor TV maintain was actually raised. Specifically, the broadcaster stated there were no entries in the Noor TV bank account relating to pledges made in Euros or Norwegian krone during the programme and that the likely reason for this was that the pledges were not honoured.
Ofcom considers that vulnerable people, such as those experiencing financial or emotional difficulties, may be unduly encouraged to give donations. In particular, Ofcom considers it unacceptable to persuade viewers to donate money on the basis of inducements such as a offering a prayer for or on behalf of the donor; the promise of better health; or that a religious figure will create further wealth for donors or take particular care of donors.
Ofcom was extremely concerned that Noor TV had not separately accounted for the donations viewers had made as a result of the appeal for funds. The broadcaster was unable to demonstrate whether the funds had been used for the purpose for which they had been donated. The broadcaster was also unable to demonstrate whether the audience had been told how much had been raised as a result of the appeal.
When Ofcom asked Noor TV to provide a recording to demonstrate that the audience had been told how much the appeal had raised, as Noor TV suggested had been the case, the broadcaster said that it was under new management who had not been involved in the broadcast in question. The broadcaster also stated that it considered “the idea of trawling through 24 hour broadcasting over a period of time to find the appropriate mention is clearly an unacceptable request”.
The broadcaster had claimed that the presenter in question was responsible for the breaches, and stated that this individual had since been dismissed. Ofcom was concerned that the broadcaster provided no detailed evidence of any compliance procedures it had in place, or has since introduced, to demonstrate that it had taken responsibility for meeting its obligations under its Ofcom licence.
Noor TV has been put on notice that the breaches in this case are being considered for the imposition of a statutory sanction.