Ummah Channel has been rapped by Ofcom after it aired a a debate show on when the Islamic holiday of Eid should be celebrated in the UK.
The show ‘Debate Night’ was broadcast on three consecutive nights in September. Ofcom employed the services of an independent translator, a native Urdu speaker, to translate the programme and produce a transcript of the content from the original Urdu.
Ofcom received 17 complaints from viewers about one of the shows because they considered the programme:
– Incited “hatred” against non-Barelvi Muslims;
– Stated non-Barelvi Muslims celebrated Eid on the “wrong day”; and
– Encouraged Barelvi Muslims to storm mosques that celebrated Eid on the “wrong day”.
In reaching this decision Ofcom has taken account of the broadcaster�۪s and audience�۪s right to freedom of expression.
In order to cover the range of viewpoints in the debate, Ummah Channel said that it had invited a range of views to be aired over the three editions of ‘Debate Night’, although ���clearly this would be uncomfortable for some of the audience given the doctrines which are being followed�. However, the Licensee said that all programme participants ���signed an in-house declaration confirming they understood their regulatory and legal obligations in giving their personal opinions on air�.
However, Ummah Channel said that in the edition of Debate Night broadcast on 3rd September 2011 ���a scholar did state their views in a manner which, it seems, caused offence and the channel received complaints directly, which have been dealt with�. In addition, the Licensee said that the content of concern was ���a small part of��_nine hours of live television debate�.
In relation to Rule 3.1, the Licensee said that the comments made by the scholar in the programme broadcast on 3rd September 2011 were made ���in the heat of the debate [and] were not intended to be interpreted literally�. Ummah Channel forwarded to Ofcom a letter of apology from the scholar, who expressed his sincere apologies for any comments he had made, and said his intention had been ���to try and create unity in celebrating Eid�.
Ofcom has warned Ummah Channel in the past about abusive comments in its output. Even though the media regulator felt the present case was not as serious as the breaches recorded previously, Ofcom is concerned that a similar breach of the Code occurred despite enhanced compliance procedures that Ummah Channel put in place. Therefore, if any similar breaches should happen in future, we are putting Ummah Channel on notice that we would consider taking further regulatory action.