Birmingham, UK, 22 November 2016. Sikh Channel has got itself into trouble with Ofcom over a show it broadcast in November 2015, which was deemed offensive.
‘The Shaheedi Smagam’ was filmed at a Gurdwara in Huddersfield on the 16, 17 and 18 October 2015. The broadcast was about two hours in duration.
A complainant alerted Ofcom to the programme. The complainant felt that a speaker made potentially harmful statements about how “Sikhs in the UK should not wait for a separate homeland of Khalistan in the Punjab” and that they should create one in the UK.
The complainant was also concerned that the speaker appeared to call for Sikhs to “set up their own economies” and “paramilitaries in the UK”.
The Sikh Channel said that the programme would not have been aired under normal circumstances and said that, due to staff shortages, the programme was broadcast without the channel completing its normal checking procedure. It added that the nature of the programme only came to light following correspondence from Ofcom.
The Sikh Channel stated that since 1 June 2015, following the theft of the Guru Granth Sahib from a Gurdwara in a village in the Punjab, the Sikh Channel had been providing daily news coverage, over a period of six months, about a “widely reported campaign of sacrilege of Sikh scriptures across the State of Punjab”.
It said this campaign had included or led to provocative posters being posted on Gurdwara walls referring to the stolen Sikh scriptures, pages of the Guru Granth Sahib being “torn and thrown” in the village of Bargari near Kotkapura, daily protests, and the shooting of two Sikh protestors by police in Bhebal Kalan.
It added that the Sikh Channel “prides itself on its regular and repeat viewers” and it was therefore “highly probable that viewers of the Broadcast would have been…aware of the apology and retraction which would have dispelled any…thoughts that the Licensee endorsed the views expressed”.
Ofcom acknowledged in this case the Licensee’s clear admissions that this broadcast material breached the Code, it had been broadcast due to “human error” by its staff and that the Licensee has taken various steps to improve compliance and training in relation to the Code.
Ofcom also considered the breach of Rule 2.3 to be serious because it arose from material which glorified acts of murder and involved proposals that Sikhs in the UK should consider now making preparations for some form of “armed conflict” in the future, without sufficient contextual justification.
Ofcom has therefore put The Sikh Channel on notice that these breaches will be considered for the imposition of a statutory sanction.