Digital TV station The Islam Channel has had its slap wrist hard with media regulator handing out a hefty fine worth 30,000 for breaches of its broadcasting code.
In the first of its rule breaks, channel host Yvonne Ridley fronted a programme on politics show ‘The Agenda’, while she was standing for the Respect Party in the May 2006 elections.
Furthermore Ofcom became aware that some editions of another current affairs programme, ‘Politics and the Media’, had been presented by Abdurahman Akhtar Jafar, who was at the time standing as the Respect Party۪s mayoral candidate in the London Borough of Newham. Again the programmes were presented by the candidate during the election period.
Ofcom’s code forbids candidates standing in UK elections to act as news presenters, interviewers, or presenters on any type of programme during an election period.
The Islam Channel also broadcast, on two occasions, ‘Jerusalem: A Promise of Heaven’. This programme examined the position of the city of Jerusalem and argued that historically Muslims have been deprived of its ownership. The Islam Channel failed to ensure that this major matter of political controversy was treated with due impartiality.
Ofcom considered that this failure was emblematic of the overall pattern of weak compliance at the Islam Channel. However, Ofcom did not consider this breach, in itself, to be sufficiently serious to warrant the imposition of a statutory sanction.
Ofcom also noted that the management of Islam Channel Ltd claimed not to have been aware of Mr Jafar’s candidacy before they were contacted by the regulator and despite the fact that Ms Ridley referred to his mayoral candidacy on air.
“This was clear evidence that Islam Channel Ltd could not have been properly monitoring its own output,” the regulator noted, ruling that the breaches caused “considerable … potential harm” and showed “a disregard of democratic processes”. The regulator ruled that the channel was “seriously negligent” and “had shown a reckless disregard for the important rules of the code with respect to ensuring fairness in the conduct of elections and for compliance generally”. In total, The Agenda and The Politics and the Media Show was found to have breached the regulator’s code on 24 occasions.