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30th October
2008
  

Ofcom Revelation...

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No free speech even when near to commonly perceived reality

Revelation TV logo Vision for Israel
Revelation TV, 18 April 2008, 15:00

Revelation TV is a religious channel that often features discussion and personal view programmes which from time to time engage viewers with challenging debates on topical issues.

Ofcom received one complaint from a viewer who alleged that an edition of the programme Vision for Israel presented by theologian, teacher and author Dan Juster, made abusive and inappropriate comments regarding Islam. Ofcom noted that, during this hour-long programme which compared the Christian and Muslim faiths, Dan Juster stated [it was his belief that]: Islam cannot be defined as a peaceful, loving religion…Islam enforces its own viewpoint through the power of the sword through death… and Islam believes that violence is a legitimate means to establish and extend Islam.

Ofcom considered Rule 4.1 of the Code (Broadcasters must exercise the proper degree of responsibility with respect to the content of programmes which are religious programmes).

Ofcom Decision

In forming its decision, Ofcom bore in mind the fact that broadcasters have a right to freedom of expression which includes the broadcaster's right to transmit and the audience's right to receive creative material, information and ideas without interference ...BUT... subject to restrictions proscribed by law and necessary in a democratic society. This right is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Broadcasters should therefore always take care to ensure that material it transmits is in accordance with both the general law and the Code.

The comments made in this programme described above were said in the context of a specialised religious programme made for a particularly niche and predominantly Christian audience. Ofcom has always considered that it is possible for the follower of one religion to reject or critique other religions in the course of sermonising or proselytising and remain within the requirements for Rule 4.1. However, this Code Rule requires broadcasters to exercise the proper degree of responsibility when, for example, using hyperbole which may include more extreme views which could be deemed offensive to people in the audience who hold different views and beliefs.

In Ofcom's view it was a serious compliance error that Revelation TV did not review the content of this programme prior to transmission. As a consequence of this, the broadcaster was not able to put the potentially offensive comments into context. The broadcaster therefore did not exercise the proper degree of responsibility with respect to the content of this religious programme as required by Rule 4.1.

The programme was in breach of Rule 4.1 of the Code.

Breach of Rule 4.1

 

15th September
2009
  

Update: Crying for Blood...

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Ofcom unimpressed by one sided and gruesome anti-abortion programme

Revelation TV logo The Land Cries Out for the Blood that Was Shed
Revelation TV, 23 June 2009, 15:30

Revelation TV is a UK-based Christian channel that features a range of programmes with a religious theme. Ofcom received a complaint about The Land Cries Out for the Blood that was Shed , objecting to the programme's stance against abortion, and the showing of graphic images of aborted foetuses. The complainant was concerned that the programme had been broadcast in the afternoon and prior to a children's programme called R Kids .

The programme was a documentary film, which consisted of commentary and interviews setting out facts, figures and opinions about abortion. All the interviewees (drawn mainly from anti-abortion organisations in the UK, the US and Israel) put forward arguments and opinions against abortion, with the views expressed being predominantly delivered from a Christian and Jewish perspective. During the programme, a range of images were shown, which depicted, in photographic form, aborted foetuses or the process of abortion. In summary, the Images consisted of the following:

  • Firstly, montages  of still photographs of late-stage aborted foetuses shown three times during the programme lasting in excess of thirty seconds in total
  • second, a number of times, brief but discernable “flash frames” of photographs of late-stage aborted foetuses, shown intermittently throughout the programme.

The programme also touched on: the legal situation pertaining to abortion in the UK, the US and Israel; and the United Nations policy concerning abortion. In addition, a number of interviewees gave their perspectives on the legal situation surrounding abortion in the above countries, and how it was being dealt with at the UN.

Ofcom considered Rules of the Code:

  • Rule 1.3: Children must be protected by appropriate scheduling
  • Rule 2.1: Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of
    television programmes
  • Rule 2.3: Offensive material must be justified by the context and appropriate
    information should also be broadcast
  • Rule 5.5: On matters of political controversy or relating to current public policy
    due impartiality must be preserved.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules 1.3, 2.1, 2.3 & 5.5

Ofcom had two broad areas of concern about the programme:

Firstly, Ofcom noted that collectively the Images consisted of depictions in photographic form of late-stage aborted foetuses. Ofcom therefore had to consider whether by broadcasting the Images, Revelation TV had failed to ensure that people under eighteen were protected, and generally accepted standards were maintained.

Second, given that the programme was touching on and discussing Governmental and international policy on abortion, Ofcom had to consider whether Section Five of the Code (concerning due impartiality) was engaged, and if so, whether due impartiality was maintained on a matter of political or industrial controversy or matter relating to current public policy.

Ofcom considered the Images collectively as being highly problematic, with real potential to cause harm and offence, including harm to any children watching.

Firstly, the Montages consisted of extremely graphic still photographs showing full images of different late stage aborted foetuses outside of the womb. These images included severed body parts including heads and limbs. Given the very explicit nature of these photographs, and the length of time they were visible to viewers, Ofcom considered the Montages had the greatest potential to cause harm and offence, including harm to any children watching. There were similar concerns about the graphic nature of the Flash Frames which included some of the same stills in the Montages.

This programme was broadcast well before the 9pm Watershed, and in fact, at a time when children would be arriving home from school. It also was broadcast only a short time before one of Revelation TV's programmes aimed at children (R Kids). Ofcom therefore considered that there was a material chance that some children might be in the audience for The Land Cries Out. Ofcom considered that the strength and highly graphic nature of the Images were totally unacceptable to be broadcast at a time when children might have been watching. The highly graphic nature of the Montages in particular, would have had, in Ofcom's opinion, the likely potential to have caused distress and upset amongst any child viewers exposed to such material. As a consequence, Ofcom considered the content to be in breach of Rule 1.3.

Ofcom considered that a combination of the Images, and in particular, the Montages, could not be justified by the context given the time of broadcast and the failure to provide adequate information about the nature of the programme, and were, therefore, in breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3.

Outside of news programmes, under Section Five of the Code, broadcasters must ensure that they preserve “due impartiality” on matters relating to political or industrial controversy or matters relating to current public policy. Having reviewed the programme, Ofcom noted that The Land Cries Out contained no opinions or viewpoints that could be portrayed as being from a pro-abortion stance. Ofcom therefore considered the programme to be in breach of Rule 5.5.

Ofcom considered these breaches of the Code to be serious.

 

5th April
2010
  

Update: A Revelation...

Christian TV channel opts out of Ofcom TV censorship

Revelation TV logoThe christian TV station Revelation TV has crossed swords several times with the TV censor Ofcom.

The satellite TV station has been censured by Ofcom for programmes going over the top in criticising homosexuality, islam and abortion.

With another Ofcom investigation under way, Revelation TV has made a strategic withdrawal from UK censorship.

On 1st April 2010 Revelation TV gave up its UK broadcasting licence and took up a new one from the Spanish government. This means that they no longer have to comply with UK broadcasting regulations and Ofcom will not accept any further complaints about the channel.