Ofcom rules TV channel broadcast ‘antisemitic hate speech’

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Ofcom rules TV channel broadcast ‘antisemitic hate speech’

The Ahlebait channel, serving the UK's Shia Muslim community, said it 'sincerely regrets potentially offensive antisemitic remarks were broadcast', after CST complains to broadcast watchdog

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Ahlebait TV's discussion show 20th Hour – Money Power, Islam and a Just Order - broadcast in March 2021
Ahlebait TV's discussion show 20th Hour – Money Power, Islam and a Just Order - broadcast in March 2021

The broadcast watchdog Ofcom has ruled that a television channel serving the Shia Muslim community in the UK broadcast content that “amounted to antisemitic hate speech” and was “abusive and derogatory towards Jewish people.”

Investigating a complaint made by the Community Security Trust (CST), Ofcom announced that the Ahlebait channel had committed “serious” breaches with the airing of a discussion show and that they had put them “on notice that we will consider them for the imposition of a statutory sanction.”

The complaint related to a live discussion programme, broadcast in March 2021, on a show called 20th Hour, hosted by Mohsin Abbas and featuring Clive Menzies and David Musa Pidcock as guests.

During a wider discussion on money and power, Pidcock said of Jewish people:”Their antisemitism comes from their actions of impoverishing people and they then respond and then they call it antisemitism but we know that it’s because they do and they get punished and as Allah says, you know, he will expel [sentence incomplete] – send them to all corners of the world to be an excoriation and a hissing and a booing to wherever he had sent them.

“So antisemitism comes from debt, not cancelling the debt, and usury”.

He said this explained why Jews had been “expelled from 47 different countries and city-states in the last one thousand years.”

Presenter Abbas described Pidcock’s views as “interesting” before added that “money is being weaponised” by countries such as America.

Menzies then also claimed:“It’s worth just noting that antisemitism was created by Theodor Herzl at the back end of the 19th century in order to frighten and create the circumstances that would encourage Jews to migrate to Israel so antisemitism is actually a Jewish creation”.

Ofcom confirmed they had investigated the programme over three possible rule breaches, including hate speech, material that is derogatory of a religion, and failure of acceptable standards.

Ahlebait responded saying the ethos of the channel was to provide a source of education to “facilitate understanding between contemporary Islamic thought and the world”.

It apologised for the comments in question, saying that they were “highly regrettable and should never have been broadcast”.

It accepted that they breached rules on offence and abuse and derogatory treatment, but not on hate speech.

Ahlebait said that the references to Jewish people by the two guests were “very brief in the context of a programme which lasted around one hour and ten minutes in total.”

The channel broadcasted an apology in June 2021 including the comment:”The channel sincerely regrets that these potentially offensive antisemitic remarks were broadcast and apologises.”

Ofcom revealed they had used the IHRA definition of antisemitism as they assessed the material broadcast for their investigation.

Dismissing the channel’s view that the antisemitic comments were only a brief party of a wider debate, Ofcom ruled:”In the context of a programme in which all three contributors were united in advocating a fairer society, speaking from positions of moral certainty and with the dual status conferred on the guests of both religious and secular experts, there was, in our view, increased potential for viewers to have given particular weight to the contributors’ views and taken seriously the hatred expressed against Jewish people.

“Therefore, we did not consider that the impact of the hate speech was diminished by brevity or the tone of the wider discussion in which it occurred.”

They added “the discussion in this programme contained views which we considered amounted to antisemitic hate speech, and were abusive and derogatory towards Jewish people.

“Our Decision is therefore that the programme had the potential to cause significant offence. We also considered that it was likely to exceed the expectations of the channel’s audience.”

Confirming three breaches of rules Ofcom added “there was insufficient context to justify the broadcast of antisemitic hate speech and abusive and derogatory treatment.

“For the same reasons, we also considered that there was insufficient context to justify the broadcast of this offensive speech.

“Ofcom considered these breaches to be serious and therefore we are putting the Licensee on notice that we will consider them for the imposition of a statutory sanction.”

CST later said that Pidcock, who died last year, has been publishing antisemitic content for years.

His book ‘Satanic Voices Ancient & Modern’ drew heavily on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other antisemitic texts.

While Menzies had previously been linked with Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom’s Keep Talking group to whom he gave a lecture in 2019.

They added:”CST will continue to find ways to protect our Jewish community from antisemitism, extremism and hatred.”

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