UK broadcast regulator OfCom called out Fox News for its false January claims that “non-Muslims just simply don’t go” to Birmingham, England, and that there were “no-go zones” in Paris under Sharia law.
In response to four complaints, OfCom decided that Fox News’ broadcast was “materially misleading and had the potential to cause harm and offence to viewers.”
The comments were made on the Jan. 11 episode of Fox News’ Justice with Jeanine Pirro, which focused on the Jan. 7 attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Below see a portion of one of the exchanges:
Another section of the interview reads:
Fox News apologized on Jan. 18 for the comments, with Pirro saying in part that her guest “made a serious factual error that we wrongly let stand unchallenged and uncorrected.”
Another apology the same day said, “we deeply regret the errors and apologize to any and all who may have taken offence including the people of France and England.”
Fox News responded to OfCom’s investigation of the comments saying that the program wasn’t necessarily categorized news and that the comments weren’t scripted.
Fox News “said that the series Justice with Jeanine Pirro is broadcast weekly and presents Judge Jeanine’s ‘legal insights on the news of the week, current high-profile cases, and recent issues and trends in the world of crime and justice,'” according to OfCom. “It does not generally deliver factual reports of news events and is built around Judge Jeanine’s ‘positions and commentary of the news,” OfCom went on.
OfCom noted that Fox News said Pirro’s show is commentary based “heavily on facts and research,” though.
Because the guests were experts and the host is a judge, “we considered that the views, opinions and lines of enquiry in the interviews were more likely to be trusted and relied on by viewers,” OfCom wrote.
Further, OfCom acknowledged that “the apologies and corrections did help to some extent to mitigate the materially misleading statements broadcast.” Regardless, OfCom called out Fox News for not having “acted sooner to correct the statements or to broadcast an apology,” especially since it was during “an extremely sensitive time.”
“For these reasons, we did not consider that the apologies and corrections sufficiently mitigated that materially misleading statements and the potential harm and offence caused to viewers of the Programme,” OfCom added, deciding the comments violated the guideline “Factual programmes or terms or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience.”
OfCom commented on its ruling, according to the Guardian, saying: “Fox News’ Justice with Jeanine Pirro was materially misleading and could have caused harm and offence to its viewers. Fox News broadcast two subsequent apologies but this was a serious breach for a current affairs programme.”
“Only about 22 percent of Birmingham’s population are Muslims, according to 2011 census data,” the Independent reported.
iMediaEthics has written to Fox News for comment.