Islamic religious channel, Peace TV has been rapped by Ofcom for broadcasting content, which was perceived potentially “harmful” and “highly offensive” during September last year.
As part of Ofcom’s routine monitoring, it viewed and translated two editions of ‘Azmat-e-Islam’. Ofcom viewed each programme in its entirety alongside the relevant translation of each programme in order to understand the content of the programmes and the editorial context. Ofcom noted that these two programmes were recordings of public lectures given by the Islamic scholar Dr Israr Ahmad, who died in April 2010. Both these lectures lasted approximately 45 minutes and discussed the role and actions of Jewish people through history from c.1500 BC to the present day.
Ofcom considered that in these two programmes Israr Ahmad repeatedly portrayed Jewish people as a homogenous group and in overwhelmingly negative and stereotypical terms. For example, Israr Ahmad made a series of allegations ascribing perfidious intent to Jewish people throughout history. Among other things, Israr Ahmed accused Jewish people of ���hatching conspiracies�; considering ���non-Jews� to be ���not human�; and considering it acceptable to ���cheat non-Jews, to rob them and to deceive them�. He also asserted as fact highly negative stereotypes about the allegedly pernicious behaviour of Jewish people in history. To this end, we noted that Israr Ahmed made allegations about the role of ���Jewish bankers� during the First World War (���lay[ing] down their roots like a cancer��_ [to take] the whole of Europe in their grip�) and in the present day (���they want to bring the world to heel through the global banking network�). Second, he referred to the inflammatory ���Protocols of the Elders of Zion�4 ��� now accepted as an anti-Semitic forgery written to demonstrate a Jewish conspiracy to achieve financial and political power world-wide ��� as a factual document containing ���in great detail� the plans of ���some very powerful Jews�.
Ofcom considered that the content taken as a whole had the potential to cause harm. Ofcom considered that the likely overall effect of this content would have been to promote highly negative anti-Semitic stereotypes about, and attitudes towards, Jewish people. In our view the terms used to describe Jewish people such as ���like a cancer�, ���evil genius�, ���their poison�, ���cursed people� and ���cursed race� were particularly strong and inflammatory and we considered there was a likelihood that these comments had the potential to harm community cohesion by promoting highly negative anti-Semitic views to viewers of Peace TV Urdu.
Ofcom went on to consider whether the Licensee had taken sufficient steps to provide adequate protection to members of the public from the inclusion of the potentially harmful and/or offensive material. We noted that Israr Ahmad spoke uninterrupted and at no point in either of the two programmes were Israr Ahmad�۪s comments balanced or countered by other content which softened or otherwise challenged the pejorative, discriminatory and inflammatory stereotypes he was putting forward. Therefore, in this case, our Decision is that the Licensee had not taken sufficient steps to provide adequate protection to members of the public from the inclusion of the potentially harmful and/or offensive material discussed above.
Ofcom noted that in its representations on Ofcom�۪s Preliminary View, Peace TV said it considered it was not ���appropriate or proportionate� to consider the imposition of a statutory sanction in this case ���when they are normally imposed for repeated and deliberate transgressions�. Ofcom�۪s Procedures for the consideration of statutory sanctions in breaches of broadcast licences6 make clear that Ofcom may impose a sanction if it considers that a broadcaster has seriously ��� and not just if it has deliberately and repeatedly (or recklessly) ��� breached the Code. Under the procedures, if Ofcom considers that a sanction may be appropriate, a broadcaster has the opportunity to make representations on Ofcom�۪s Preliminary View in that matter.
In response, Peace TV’s spokesperson told Ofcom, ���Peace TV�۪s main aim is to remove misconceptions about Islam, of which we believe there are many�. It added that its programming seeks ���to draw the common threads of all religions��_[and to] this end programming often furnishes references from the scriptures of varying different religions�. However, the Licensee said that: ���It is not, and never has been, Peace TV�۪s intention to cause offence to believers of other religions, or to harm members of other faiths or those of none, in any way�.
Peace TV said it took the issue ���very seriously� and ���sincerely regret[ted] having broadcast Dr Ahmad�۪s views on this matter, which are not consistent with [its] beliefs, and will not do so again�. It added that it had ���reviewed all our processes to ensure there is no repeat� of this incident. However, the Licensee said it was ���concerned� that Ofcom was considering the imposition of a statutory sanction, which Club TV considered was not ���appropriate or proportionate in these circumstances when they are normally imposed for repeated and deliberate transgressions�. The Licensee also said that neither it nor Peace TV Urdu have ���previously been subject to an adverse Ofcom decision, let alone warned in any Ofcom decision that we would be considered for a statutory sanction on the next occasion (as appears to be Ofcom�۪s practice)�.