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Ofcom warns TalkTV over ‘potentially offensive’ Julia Hartley-Brewer interview with Palestinian MP

And regulator announces investigation into episode of Labour MP David Lammy's LBC show

By Bron Maher

Broadcast regulator Ofcom will take no further action against TalkTV over an interview by host Julia Hartley-Brewer with a Palestinian MP that prompted more than 17,000 complaints.

The regulator said it was instead issuing “strong guidance” to the broadcaster that “potentially offensive comments” must be “justified and put into proper context”.

In the 3 January broadcast, Hartley-Brewer accused interviewee Dr Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, of interrupting her, saying: “Maybe you’re not used to women talking, I don’t know, but I’d like to finish the sentence!”

She added at the end of the interview: “Sorry to have been a woman speaking to you but there you are.”

The exchange prompted 17,340 complaints, with critics accusing the presenter of using Islamophobic or racist stereotypes.

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Ofcom says Julia Hartley-Brewer comments ‘had potential to be highly offensive’

On Monday morning Ofcom said it had made a “finely balanced decision”, accepting that many complainants understood Hartley-Brewer’s comments to be “motivated by Dr Barghouti’s religion or ethnicity”.

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It said the comments therefore “had the potential to be highly offensive to viewers”.

However it decided not to formally investigate because of factors “including the brevity of the remarks and audience expectations of this presenter and programme”.

Instead the regulator said it was warning TalkTV “to take greater care to ensure that potentially highly offensive comments are justified by the context in order to comply with the Broadcasting Code”.

News UK said last month it plans to take TalkTV off linear TV and go online-only, ditching the broadcast channel it launched less than two years ago.

It is unclear whether the outlet will continue to submit to Ofcom regulation after it goes fully digital. Whereas radio and television broadcast outlets in the UK must adhere to the Broadcasting Code by law, at present no such restriction applies to online outfits.

Ofcom investigating David Lammy LBC broadcast on impartiality

On Monday Ofcom also announced it has launched an investigation into Labour MP David Lammy’s LBC programme on 29 March.

Lammy had read out the breaking news that DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had resigned, prompting 51 complaints in relation to Broadcasting Code rules on politicians acting as news presenters.

Last month Ofcom ruled that TalkTV rival and fellow opinion-led channel GB News broke impartiality rules five times in May and June 2023 with broadcasts in which Conservative MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg, Esther Davies and Philip Davies read out news on their programmes.

Guido Fawkes highlighted Lammy’s comments on Donaldson’s resignation on X/Twitter asking Ofcom whether it would hold LBC to the same standards.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • CFO
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  • Chairperson
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  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
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  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
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