Ofcom rejects Islam TV appeal over bias ruling

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2011
Machover: was guest on the station

Machover: was guest on the station

Ofcom, the broadcasting standards watchdog, has rejected an appeal by the Islam Channel over its coverage of Israel.

The English-language satellite station had challenged a ruling last year that it breached Ofcom's broadcasting code in two programmes which discussed Israel's conduct in Gaza.

But Ofcom's broadcasting review committee, in a decision published this month, stated that the London-based channel had failed to maintain "an adequate and appropriate level of impartiality".

The committee noted the channel's difficulties in finding guests to represent the Israeli government viewpoint.

But it went on: "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, however, a matter of political controversy and the Islam Channel… was therefore obliged to ensure some discussion of the policies and actions of the Israeli government which represented its viewpoint."

The two programmes under scrutiny were an edition of Umma Talk, broadcast on October 14 2009, and an edition of Politics and Beyond - presented by Cordoba Foundation founder Anas Altikriti - that went out two days later.

At one point during Umma Talk, its presenter Azad Ali commented that Gaza was "an open prison blocked from all sides".

One of his guests, Ismail Patel, the chairman of Friends of Al Aqsa, also said: "In a way, if you're a prisoner, you'd be better off than if you were in Gaza."

In Politics and Beyond, Ofcom noted comments critical of Israel made by guests Andrew Slaughter MP and Daniel Machover, a co-founder of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights.

Mr Slaughter referred to the "collective punishment of the people of Gaza", while Mr Machover said: "You've got to deal with the fact that there's a big driver within the Israeli society for there to be wars because it generates jobs, it generates money."

The Ofcom review committee said that the Islam Channel was "required to ensure that alternative viewpoints are adequately represented".

Although the channel's breaches of the broadcasting code were not serious enough to merit a "statutory sanction", it was "considered appropriate for the Islam Channel to be invited to attend a meeting with Ofcom", to discuss how to improve its compliance with impartiality rules.

Last updated: 12:43pm, December 29 2011