Ofcom has ruled that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s alternative Christmas message on Channel 4 was not in breach of broadcasting regulations – despite 295 complaints.
The regulator decided the message was a “message of goodwill to the UK audience” and “non-confrontational”.
The seven-minute address – preceded by a “short film on the president’s controversial record” – was Channel 4’s latest Christmas Day message, billed as an alternative to the Queen’s speech.
Previous Christmas Day messages have come from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a 9/11 survivor and a British Muslim woman in a veil.
According to Ofcom, the complainants “considered it offensive and inappropriate for airtime to be given to President Ahmadinejad, known for his controversial views and policies on issues such as the Holocaust, women, and homosexuals”.
It added: “Some complainants believed it was especially insulting for such a programme to be broadcast on Christmas Day.”
But Ofcom ruled: “We acknowledged that this programme, taken in its entirety, would have been challenging and upsetting to a number of people.
“However, Ofcom must take into account the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority.
“While President Ahmadinejad gave what was an unmediated address to camera, Ofcom noted that this was importantly preceded by a short report, summarising the controversial issues and events which have been connected to him and his presidency.
“The actual content of his address could be described as non-confrontational, comprising as it did, a message of good will to the UK audience.”
Ahmadinejad criticised “tyrannical policies of prevailing global, economic and political systems”, and added: “We believe Jesus Christ will return along with one of the children of the revered messenger of Islam and will lead the world to love, brotherhood and justice.”
Channel 4 said it received 217 positive comments on the programme, and that the decision to broadcast followed “extensive discussions at a senior level”.