It was OK for the BBC to publish a piece of neo-Nazi propaganda depicting Prince Harry being shot, OfCom, the UK broadcast regulator found.
OfCom regulates UK broadcasters, but doesn’t have to “resolve” complaints and has no “enforcement powers” when it comes to BBC’s online content. Instead, OfCom explained in its July report, it is required to “consider” online complaints and offer its opinion about whether the BBC handled the complaint appropriately.
In a case highlighted in OfCom’s July 22 report, OfCom explained it received a complaint about a Dec. 2018 BBC online article headlined, “British Neo-Nazis suggest Prince Harry should be shot.” The article reported on two men, who were later arrested, who were allegedly tied to a British neo-Nazi group. The BBC included one of the group’s “propaganda images” from social media which was “a stylised collage image” showing a gun pointed at Prince Harry’s head, blood, a swastika and the caption “See ya later race traitor.” The article also described the image.
A day after publication, the BBC added a warning at the top of the article and decreased the size of the image. The day after that, the BBC deleted the image, OfCom reported, arguing it wasn’t in the public interest to show the image any longer.
The BBC declined to comment to iMediaEthics.
OfCom found that the image had “clear potential to cause considerable offence” given it was created by a neo-Nazi group “for the specific purpose of spreading its racist ideology,” but it ultimately was in the public interest and important context to illustrate the group’s actions.
“Further, it powerfully expressed the extreme racist views shared by members of the group and their violent intent, and highlighted the urgent need for legal action to be taken against them,” OfCom found. OfCom also noted that the image’s offensiveness was “slightly” mitigated because the image was a collage and not an actual “photo-realistic” image.
OfCom also credited BBC with its decision to remove the image after a couple of days because the public interest in it had decreased, and ultimately agreed with the BBC’s decision-making processes.