UK TV news channel Geo News broke broadcasting standards when it broadcast graphic and violent footage of the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque attacks in 2019, the UK broadcasting regulator OfCom ruled.
In its Feb. 2020 ruling, OfCom explained Geo News showed attack footage from the gunman’s helmet-camera including shooting and a partially blurred body. The program also included “a montage of still images,” video clips of the response, to the attacks, and another video clip of the attack showing a body and a woman screaming for help. The report also included an image of the gunman in court, an injured victim, photos of the victims, and footage of the gunman shooting his gun.
Geo News broadcasts in the Urdu language in the UK. iMediaEThics has written to Geo News.
Geo News defended its report, arguing it didn’t break standards for when the program was scheduled, because the audience for the program was not children, so any minors wouldn’t have seen the program. However, Geo News also said if OfCom rejected that argument, it didn’t intend to break guidelines for showing graphic footage when children could see. About airing the graphic footage on its own, Geo TV said it was “clear and obvious human error” and “inadvertent” that it broke guidelines by showing footage that was too graphic.
OfCom noted that its guidelines don’t have an “absolute” ban on airing graphic footage because there may be a public interest argument. However, it noted some of the footage in question was recorded and shared by “an armed terrorist” and that propaganda “is inherently dangerous.”
Because the program was aired within 24 hours of the attacks and in the early morning, viewers would have likely been upset by the footage.
“Given the highly disturbing nature of this content, we considered that its adverse impacts were likely to have exceeded the audience’s expectations. This, in our view, would have especially been the case for viewers from the Muslim community, who were likely to have made up the majority of Geo News’s audience, and would have found this content particularly distressing,” OfCom wrote.
While OfCom found that there was a “strong public interest” in reporting on the attacks, and Geo News didn’t warn viewers, the footage broadcast was a violation of guidelines for showing graphic content and justifying that content. OfCom also ruled that Geo News broke standards by broadcasting the program when children could have seen it.