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TalkTV must ensure potentially offensive comments are justified, warns Ofcom

Published: 8 April 2024

We have today told TalkTV to take extra care to ensure that comments which have high risk of causing serious offence are justified and put into proper context.

This follows an assessment of comments made by Julia Hartley-Brewer during an interview with Dr Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, which prompted a significant volume of complaints to Ofcom.

This was a finely balanced decision. We consider that Ms Hartley-Brewer’s comments towards Dr Barghouti had the potential to be highly offensive to viewers. But taking into account a number of contextual factors – including the brevity of the remarks and audience expectations of this presenter and programme, which often features provocative viewpoints – we have decided not to formally investigate.

While TalkTV’s position is that Ms Hartley-Brewer’s comments were not motivated by Dr Barghouti’s religion or ethnicity, we recognise that many complainants understood them to be so. Given this, the comments had the potential to be highly offensive to viewers, irrespective of the intent of the presenter.

We are therefore issuing strong guidance to TalkTV on the need to take greater care to ensure that potentially highly offensive comments are justified by the context in order to comply with the Broadcasting Code. We expect the broadcaster to take this guidance into account in future programming.

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