Nigel Farage did not breach broadcasting guidelines when he said on his LBC show that Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow “should be attacked”, Ofcom has ruled.
The Brexit Party leader (pictured) avoided a sanction from the UK broadcast regulator because he clarified at the next available opportunity – after an advert break – that he had only meant Snow should be verbally targeted.
Farage was speaking on his evening talk show on 31 March – two days after Snow said during a live broadcast for Channel 4 News from a pro-Brexit rally in Westminster that he had “never seen so many white people in one place”.
Ofcom received seven complaints about Farage’s statement that “Jon Snow should be attacked”. Complainants said it was inappropriate, unsuitable, and potentially encouraged violence against the presenter.
Farage’s comment came during a discussion between Farage and former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell about two Brexit marches.
Campbell challenged the politician’s assertion that a pro-Brexit event had been peaceful.
After Campbell claimed protesters had “started beating up journalists,” Farage said Snow should be attacked “because of his terrible condescending bias”.
He then said that he wanted people “to have peaceful and democratic means of expressing their anger”.
Four minutes later after an advert break, Farage read out a tweet from a listener who said: “Nigel Farage calls for Channel 4’s Jon Snow to be attacked, is it incitement?”
Farage responded: “No. Verbally, verbally attacked for his disgraceful coverage of the Leave rally on Friday, for which I’m pleased to say that Channel 4 has made a grovelling apology, so fine.
“It does worry me that we have public service broadcasters who clearly display too much bias.”
Ofcom said Farage’s comment had the “clear potential to be interpreted by the audience as a reference to the use of physical violence against Jon Snow” and therefore cause significant offence, due to the context of the discussion about violence against journalists.
The regulator said the word “attack” was ambiguous and could have led some listeners to interpret Farage’s words as “highly inflammatory and provocative”.
Ofcom added: “Against a background of volatile political discourse about Brexit and the reports of abuse and threats against journalists, the police and politicians at and around that time, we considered that Mr Farage’s statement required particularly strong contextualisation.”
However Ofcom decided that Farage’s subsequent reference to “peaceful and democratic” ways of expressing anger would have helped to mitigate the potential for offence.
LBC had argued that after Farage made this point, listeners “could not have reasonably expected” his comment on Jon Snow to be incitement for violence.
The radio station also told Ofcom that Farage’s clarification after the ad break had explained how “in his opinion this verbal reproval would have been justified following Jon Snow’s ‘disgraceful coverage of the Leave rally on Friday’”.
Ofcom agreed the timing of Farage’s clarification after the advert break gave further context as he had taken the next available opportunity to clarify his earlier statement.
Ruling that there was no breach of the Broadcasting Code, Ofcom said Farage’s comments had therefore been “sufficiently contextualised”.
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville