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West Midlands Police and Channel 4.

Eddie Mair | 11:38 UK time, Monday, 19 November 2007

The Press Association reports:

"Media watchdog Ofcom has rejected complaints by West Midlands Police about a Channel 4 undercover programme that exposed extremism in British mosques. Police claimed that the Dispatches programme had misrepresented the views of Muslim preachers and clerics with misleading editing. Following today's ruling, the broadcaster called the police's actions "perverse" and said they had, in some people's eyes, given "legitimacy to
people preaching a message of hate". Ofcom said: "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."

I'll be recording an interview with Ofcom on this story in the next half hour. Here is a link so you can read the Ofcom stuff for yourself. It's on page 9.

1310 UPDATE:: And here is the draft of how we're planning to tell the story tonight:

"It must be one of the most analysed pieces of television in recent years.

This Despatches documentary for Channel 4, entitled "undercover mosque".

The programme was broadcast in January and claimed to have uncovered extremism in British mosques. The programme included excerpts from preachers and teachers such as "allah created the woman deficient"; "it takes two witnesses of a woman to equal the witness of the man"; "take that homosexual and throw him off the mountain", and "whoever changes his religion from Al Islam to to anything else - kill him in the Islamic state".

After the programme went out, West Midlands police investigated whether any of the people featured had committed a criminal offence.

But the police ended up investigating the programme's makers: had they distorted the views of participants during the editing process?

The Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was insufficient evidence that racial hatred had been stirred up as a result of the programme. So West Midlands Police complained to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom. Today Ofcom ruled on the police complaint, and on 364 others. It ruled in favour of Channel 4.

I've been hearing from (TITLE) of Ofcom, Ed Richards.

[GOTO AUDIO
NAME: that]

The National Secular Society said it wanted to know why West Midlands Police had conducted a "witch hunt" against the programme makers. For the Liberal Democrats Don Foster has written to the force asking why it had targetted Channel 4. He said: "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." For the Conservatives, David Davis called it a "serious misjudgment to continue to pursue the editorial team and risked impeding freedom of speech."

Comments

  1. At 02:18 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Unqualified Loon #3 wrote:

    Can anyone explain why the National Secular Society feel they need to comment here? It's not really anything to do with them. It seems to me to be a piece of self-promotion on their part...

  2. At 02:21 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Whoops, I meant to change my name back before posting before, but I forgot. Sorry...

  3. At 03:37 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    UL3 (1)

    Probably the National Secular Society thought the WM Police were giving unnecessary favour to a religion.

  4. At 03:55 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Unqualified Loon No 2 wrote:

    And another thing, my colleague U. L. #3, how come the Nat Secular Society are commenting on a "witch hunt" anyway? Do they believe in witches then? Just how secular are they ?

  5. At 05:20 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Unqualified Loon 3 wrote:

    Unqualified Loon #3 (at 1 and elsewhere): This Blog's too small for two number 3s, can you please move to an unallocated number? ;o)

  6. At 05:39 PM on 19 Nov 2007, John Wilbye wrote:

    OK, so the CPS concluded there was insufficient evidence that racial hatred had been stirred up as a result of the programme, but why didn't the police investigate incitement to murder, or doesn't killing count as murder these days?

    Good job the cleric hadn't suggested exceeding the speed limit on the way to the killing, otherwise the police would have acted immediately.

  7. At 05:49 PM on 19 Nov 2007, taxpayer wrote:

    I take as read that in the East Midlands,
    there are no unsolved murders, an absence of burgulary & mugging and gun & drug crimes non-existant. Senior Police officers need to be brought to account.

  8. At 08:40 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Paul Green wrote:

    Unaware of the Despatches documentary “undercover mosque”, I was shocked to hear on PM that the Chief Constable of “WMP”, has spent police time and money trying to prosecute and intimidate the programme makers, in conjunction with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
    Our politicians and putative King are already tainted by their dealings with this Kingdom.
    Now it seems our Chief Constables are to turn our legal system into one constituted for the protection of criminals, the encouragement of crime, and the harassment of good and honest citizens.
    Chief Constables are now commissars charged with an agenda of PC on behalf of their corrupted political masters.

  9. At 10:36 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Paul Green @ 8, I do hope that someone has bothered to tell the Chief Constables this. I doubt they will know it otherwise.

    Incidentally, I didn't know anyone was claimed to be our king: who would that be, please? Last time I looked, we were ruled by the Queen, and she seemed to be alive today at her 60th wedding celebrations.

  10. At 11:56 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Saul Goode wrote:

    I briefly appeared in the Dispatches documentary 'Undercover Mosque' because the programme makers filmed openly in our mosque, as an example of a more liberal mosque (although you might not have realised that). They also interviewed the Imam but they cut what he had to say severely, whereas the more sensationalist extremist stuff was constantly repeated.
    I thought the programme was bias and offensive. But unfortunately the stupid things that were said in the name of Islam were not that surprising.

  11. At 12:13 PM on 20 Nov 2007, AllanW wrote:

    Saul (comment 10) it's good to hear a more rational view on this issue. However I'm at a loss to understand how the programme is "offensive" to YOU if you associate yourself with the more liberal and non-extremist teachings of your local mosque?

    It's also a little worrying that you are not surprised by the "stupid things that were said in the name of Islam"; is that because you recognise that your own liberal teachers provide the background against which these fundamentalist fanatics can operate? Or that you come across these extremists more often than you would like? I'd like to understand more.

  12. At 03:42 PM on 20 Nov 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Saul @ 10, Pretty stupid things get said in the name of Christianity too, as we see all the time, and I imagine that it would be possible to film them selectively and produce a documentary called 'Undercover Church' that made it look as if all vicars were preaching something frightful.

    The agenda for the programme seems fairly clear; the agenda of the WMC also looks reasonably straightforward. What I can't quite make out is what the agenda was for the Ofcom people. I'm sure they must have had one, and I find it hard to credit that it was only what appears on the surface.

    Cynical? MOI?!?

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