Channel 4 cleared in TV ‘fakery’ row

Ofcom rejects police claims of distortion in Dispatches Mosque programme

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has today dismissed all complaints against Channel 4 Dispatches programme Undercover Mosque, including a claim by West Midlands Police that the programme had misrepresented the views of Muslim preachers and clerics through misleading editing.

As well as dismissing the police’s complaint, Ofcom rejected 364 viewers’ complaints against the programme as well as a fairness complaints from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Cultural Centre and the London Central Mosque.

The documentary, produced by Hardcash Productions, was broadcast on 15 January this year. It involved a reporter going undercover to reveal extreme and anti-democratic views being preached in mainstream British Mosques and Islamic organisations which claim to be committed to interfaith dialogue.

In its ruling, Ofcom rejected evidence supplied by the police to support their claim of misrepresentation through misleading editing. It concluded:

“Undercover Mosque was a legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest. Ofcom found no evidence that the broadcaster had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity. On the evidence (including untransmitted footage and scripts), Ofcom found that the broadcaster had accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context.”

In response, Andy Duncan, Channel 4’s Chief Executive, said: “This is an important judgment that vindicates our strong defence of the programme in the face of a concerted effort to discredit it. We have maintained all along that the comments made by certain speakers in the film spoke for themselves and this ruling confirms that.”

In a statement, West Midlands Police (WMP) acknowledged Ofcom’s findings but said:

“WMP conducted an investigation into the comments made by those featured within the programme. In accordance with legal practice, this investigation was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for review. After careful consideration the CPS concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against any of those people. The CPS did, however, raise significant concerns around the production of the programme. WMP considered this and subsequently a referral to Ofcom was made.”

However, Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, criticsed the complaint to Ofcom by the police:

“Having been advised by the CPS that no criminal charges should be brought, there was no cause for a police complaint to Ofcom. That decision drew the police into scrutinising editorial decisions of a television producer, which is not an appropriate law enforcement function and risks deterring legitimate investigative journalism.”

Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture Secretary, Don Foster has written to the police asking them to justify the complaint to Ofcom.

“Public figures should have thought twice before instantly damning Channel 4 for conducting what turns out to be a scrupulous piece of journalistic investigation into a matter of significant public interest.”