Channel 4 News reprimanded by Ofcom

ITN’s Channel 4 News has been found  in breach of the UK broadcasting code following broadcasting inaccurate information concerning the Westminster terror attack.

Channel 4 News and its production company, ITN, has been officially chastised by the television regulator for incorrectly identifying the Westminster terror attacker during the programme which aired on the day of the attack, March 22nd.

“I’ve had it confirmed within the last half an hour that the suspect who the police shot dead is Abu Izzadeen, formerly known as Trevor Brooks, aged 41, and who has had a very long history of association with Islamist extremism, a very long one.” – Simon Israel on Channel 4 News, March 22nd

The progamme’s senior home affairs correspondent Simon Israel provided information on air, from a single source, which incorrectly named Abu Izzadeen as the terrorist attacker. As the programme continued across its hour slot it later transpired Abu was in prison, however the programme, while noting this as a possibility, failed to retract its earlier information during the broadcast that evening.

In findings released today Ofcom said:

“We considered that by incorrectly stating that Abu Izzadeen was responsible for multiple killings, murdering a police officer and carrying out the attack, and reprising that theme throughout the first 35 minutes of the programme, the Licensee had broadcast a significant inaccuracy. Given the particularly high audience expectations that there would have been for this programme, in our view, this inaccuracy was of such magnitude and given such prominence that it was not fully mitigated by the later steps taken in the programme to correct the error. Therefore, when considering the programme as a whole, Ofcom considered that it was not duly accurate.

 

“Ofcom recognises that decisions to broadcast material of this nature, when a news story is evolving, are often made at times of intense pressure and involve fine editorial judgements. It is important that broadcasters are able fully to inform the audience of developments in an event of significant public interest. However, in doing so it is also important to ensure that viewers are not misled and that such events are reported with due accuracy.

 

“We acknowledge that breaking news requires editorial teams to make decisions rapidly while under intense pressure. However, Channel 4 News’ rush to get this story to air resulted in it broadcasting a significant error on a major news story.”

The regulator has ordered Channel 4 News to transmit a summary of its findings, however the fine details on this broadcast has yet to be decided. Ofcom note that the latest repremand is the fourth time in three years the news programme, which launched in 1982, has been in breach of the broadcasting codes. The television regulator went on to note they are ‘particularly concerned’ by the latest breach following previous assurances by Channel 4 and ITN to Ofcom that ‘improvements to its compliance processes were being made.’

As well as Channel 4 News, ITN also produce the news programming for ITV News, the regional ITV London news service and Channel 5 News.

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