A television investigation that accused several mosques of harbouring extremism has been cleared of misleading viewers and offending Muslims by the industry watchdog, Ofcom.
Undercover Mosque, an hour-long Dispatches special aired on Channel 4 in January, was based on the work of an undercover reporter who had been monitoring sermons and activities at mosques, including the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, for months.
Ofcom received 364 complaints about the programme, although the regulator said that some ‘appeared to be evidence of a campaign’against the programme and its makers.
Many said the investigation was biased against Muslims and misleading viewers but Ofcom rejected the claims and cleared Channel 4 of seven separate breaches of the Broadcasting Code.
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said: ‘Ofcom’s investigation found that Dispatches had uncovered matters of clear public interest and had handled the material responsibly finding no evidence that Channel 4 had misled its audience.
‘In keeping with its remit as a public service broadcaster, it is essential that Channel 4 continues to produce challenging programmes about controversial issues which are responsibly handled. In this case the Dispatches team did not shy away from a difficult subject and upheld British broadcasting’s strong tradition of investigative journalism.”
West Midlands Police complained about the programme to Ofcom in August this year after it asked Channel 4 for footage that was not broadcast through a court order.
The police force said it and the Crown Prosecution Service had considered potential offences caused in the making and broadcasting of the programme, relating to ‘stirring up racial hatred”, though the CPS later admitted that ‘prosecution was unlikely”.
In its complaint, WMP claimed that through extensive editing those featured in the programme had been misrepresented; that the footage ‘undermined community cohesion’and the ‘safety’of local communities.
It said speeches from radical DVDs had been taken out of context and played over footage from the Green Lane Mosque. The police said the programme had not ‘accurately reflected daily life in the mosque.’
In its response, Channel 4 said the police’s allegations were ‘utterly without foundation’and the force had shown a ‘fundamental misunderstanding of the editing process by which television programmes are legitimately made”.