Archive for the ‘Ofcom TV Censor’ Category

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al arabiya logoAl Arabiya News is an Arabic language news and current affairs channel licensed by Ofcom.

Mr Husain Abdulla complained to Ofcom on behalf of Mr Hassan Mashaima about unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy in connection with the obtaining of material included in the programme and the programme as broadcast on Al Arabiya News on 27 February 2016.

The programme reported on an attempt made in February and March 2011, by a number of people including the complainant, Mr Hassan Mashiama, to change the governing regime in Bahrain from a Kingdom to a Republic. It included an interview with Mr Mashaima, filmed while he was in prison awaiting a retrial, as he explained the circumstances which had led to his arrest and conviction.

The interview included Mr Mashaima making confessions as to his participation in certain activities. Only approximately three months prior to the date on which Al Arabiya News said the footage was filmed, an official Bahraini Commission of Inquiry had found that similar such confessions had been obtained from individuals, including Mr Mashaima, under torture. During Mr Mashaima’s subsequent retrial and appeal, he maintained that his conviction should be overturned, as confessions had been obtained from him under torture.

Ofcom’s Decision is that the appropriate sanction should be a financial penalty of £120,000 and that the Licensee should be directed to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings, on a date to be determined by Ofcom, and that it should be directed to refrain from broadcasting the material found in breach again.

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good morning britainThe Scotsman has published Ofcom’s top 10 most complained about TV programmes for 2017:1. Good Morning Britain, ITV, 5 September (1,142 complaints)

Dr Michael Davidson described homosexuality as a “sin” and “a socially constructed concept”.

2. Press Preview, Sky News, 20 June (1,063 complaints)

British journalist Melanie Phillips suggested that amongst the world’s Muslim population “there are millions of people to try to kill others.”

3. Britain’s Got Talent, ITV, 1 June (665 complaints)

Presenter Amanda Holden offended the easily offended with a sexy dress.

4. Coronation Street, ITV, 27 October (541 complaints)

The murderous Pat Phelan was a little too nasty for some viewers.

5. Comic Relief 2017, BBC 1, 24 March (339 complaints)

Comedian Russell Brand said ‘fuck’ before the watershed and former Shooting Stars presenter Vic Reeves flashed a fake penis at

6. Emmerdale, ITV, 6 March (275 complaints)

Aaron Dingle suffered homophobic abuse from fellow prison inmates before being beaten up.

7. I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! ITV, 7 December (243 complaints)

Iain Lee and ex-footballer Dennis Wise became embroiled in a bullying row.

8. This Morning, ITV, 13 November (181 complaints)

Guest Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre. Williams referred to the transgender identity as “a fad”.

9. Good Morning Britain, ITV, 20 June (176 complaints)

Good Morning Britian was criticised for hosting right-wing figure Tommy Robinson who made commented about the Qur’an as a violent and cursed book.

10. Benidorm, ITV, 3 May (137 complaints)

The sitcom Benidorm received a number of complaints following comments towards a character with a cleft lip.

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terry burnsTerry Burns is set to become the new chairman of Ofcom in January 2018. As part of the approval process he was asked to appear before parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. And the topic of conversation was internet censorship, in particular censorship of social media.He was asked his thoughts on whether social media platforms such as Facebook should be recognised as publishers and therefore regulated. He responded:

I think it’s a very big issue. It’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish between broadcasting and what one is capable of watching on the internet.

However, I think in many ways the main issue here is in terms of legislation and it is an issue for parliament rather than Ofcom.

I’ve been following this issue about platforms versus publishers… There must be a question of how sustainable that is.  I don’t want to take a position on that at this stage. As far as I’m concerned the rules under which we are working at the moment is that they are defined as platforms.

There will be an ongoing debate about that, for the moment that’s where they are. I find it difficult to believe that over time there isn’t going to be further examination of this issue.

Asked whether there was a role for Ofcom to monitor and check social media, Lord Burns said:

I don’t see any reason why if parliament wanted Ofcom to do that it shouldn’t [do so]… I’m not quite sure who else would do it.

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hannity fox newsHannity
Fox News, 31 January 2017, 06:15

Fox News is a news channel from the US shown on UK TV. Although the channel has ceased to broadcast and is no longer a licensed television service falling under Ofcom’s jurisdiction, Ofcom has decided that publication of this short form decision is appropriate to ensure there is a complete compliance record and to facilitate public understanding of the Code.

This case concerns “due impartiality”.

In reaching this Decision, we have taken into account the fact that Fox News is a US news channel, directed at US audiences, which is available in the UK. The people who watch it in the UK are aware that it is a US channel and their expectations are different. It is not a main source of news in the UK. However, we were also mindful that, in our view, this particular programme dealt with major matters relating to current public policy that, as well as being of international significance, were of particular relevance and significance to UK viewers.

Hannity is a current affairs discussion programme. On 31 January 2017, it covered President Donald Trump’s Executive Order issued on 27 January 2017 restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. Ofcom considered the programme under Code rules:

  • 5.9 (adequate representation of alternative views in ‘personal view’ or discussion programmes),

  • 5.11 (due impartiality on matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy) and

  • 5.12 (inclusion of an appropriately wide range of significant views when dealing with matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy).

Ofcom considered the Order to be a “major” matter. There was intense international and UK interest in it at the time. Although a domestic US policy, its application was likely to impact non-US citizens, including in the UK. It also attracted scrutiny as an early signal of how the Trump Administration would approach domestic and international affairs. On the day before the broadcast thousands of people joined protests in several UK cities against the travel ban, MPs held an emergency debate at Westminster and more than 1.5 million people had signed a petition calling for Mr Trump’s state visit to the UK to be cancelled.

We went on to consider if due impartiality had been preserved by ensuring alternative viewpoints were sufficiently reflected. The opening monologue featured several video clips of public figures reacting critically to the Order. However, these views were briefly represented in pre-recorded videos and repeatedly dismissed or ridiculed by the presenter without sufficient opportunity for the contributors to challenge or otherwise respond to the criticism directed at them. During the rest of the programme, the presenter interviewed various guests who were all prominent supporters of the Trump administration and highly critical of those opposed to the Order. The presenter consistently voiced his enthusiastic support for the Order and the Trump Administration.

Ofcom acknowledged that viewers were likely to expect Hannity to address controversial issues from a perspective that is generally more supportive of the US Republican Party. However, the likely audience expectations did not provide sufficient contextual justification to outweigh the numerous highly critical statements made about people who had opposed the Order, coupled with the clear support being expressed for the policies of President Trump.

Breaches of Rules 5.9, 5.11 and 5.12

Ofcom cited a second example of Fox News one sided reporting, criticising Tucker Carlson Tonight for a programme about Islam, child abuse and terrorism.

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patricia hodgsonThe chairman of the media censor Ofcom has said she believes internet businesses such as Google and Facebook are publishers, and so should be regulated by the state.Patricia Hodgson also revealed that the board of Ofcom discussed how the internet could be regulated in the future at a strategy day last week, although she said this was ultimately a matter for the government.

Hodgson was speaking to MPs at a hearing of the digital, culture, media and sport committee. Asked about the rise of fake news and whether internet companies should face greater regulation, Hodgson said:

Those particular distribution systems [Facebook, Google, Twitter etc] are not within Ofcom’s responsibility but we feel very strongly about the integrity of news in this country and we are totally supportive of steps that should and need to be taken to improve matters.

My personal view is I see this as an issue that is finally being grasped — certainly within the EU, certainly within this country — and to my amazement and interest, being asked in the United States as a result of the potential Russian scandals. My personal view is that they are publishers but that is only my personal view, that is not an Ofcom view. As I said, Ofcom is simply concerned about the integrity of news and very supportive of the debate and the steps that are being taken.

Theresa May’s spokesman said Hodgson’s comments were a matter for her as an independent regulator, but indicated that ministers were sympathetic.

Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, said she was wary of regulating internet companies. We feel strongly that the platforms as publishers have got more responsibility to ensure the right content, she said. I don’t think it’s a question of regulation, which I think has a fuzzy boundary with censorship, but I think we feel strongly that the platforms ought to be doing more to ensure their content can be trusted.

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Ofcom logoThe BBC is facing a court battle after it defied Ofcom orders to publish figures on complaints about its shows.

Channel 4 and ITV already disclose the numbers, and release detailed information about objections to their programmes every two weeks. But the BBC nsists on keeping that information a secret. Perhaps this more about revealing political accusations of bias rather than trivial whinges by the ‘easily offended.

Now TV censor Ofcom has waded in and told the BBC it has no choice but to become more transparent. Ofcom insiders have also made it clear that they are prepared to go to court over the matter if the BBC digs its heels in. Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, regards it as an important point of principle.

Kevin Bakhurst, an Ofcom director and a former BBC news boss, has told Corporation executives they need to comply. In a strongly worded letter, seen by the Mail, he said:

The greater transparency we propose is necessary to build and maintain public confidence in the operation of the BBC… and to provide public accountability.

Ofcom has given the BBC until the November 19 to comply with orders and publish fortnightly complaints bulletins that go into the same level of detail as Ofcom’s reports about Channel 4, ITV, Five, Sky and other broadcasters.

BBC bosses will then have to publish the exact number of complaints the Corporation receives about every programme that registers 100 or more objections. Every time a complaint sparks an investigation, it will also be forced to disclose full details of the complaints, the points of principles at stake and the outcome of its probe.

A BBC spokesman has responded:

The BBC is already the most transparent broadcaster on complaints, including publishing data every month and responding on our website, and numbers are often influenced by orchestrated political campaigns but of course we are considering Ofcom’s letter.

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Ofcom logoTV and internet censors Ofcom have introduced the concept of reduced fines for those censorship rule breakers who admit their guilt. Ofcom explains:

On 28 June 2017, following consultation, we published new Enforcement guidelines for regulatory investigations. Among other things, these documents set out a new process for settlement of an investigation falling within the scope of the Guidelines and the Procedures. Settlement is a voluntary process in which the regulated body admits it has breached relevant regulatory requirements and accepts that the remainder of the investigation will follow a streamlined administrative procedure. In successful settlement cases, Ofcom will apply a discount to the level of the penalty in light of the resource savings involved in following a streamlined administrative procedure.