Entertainment & Arts

Channel 4 News report misled viewers, Ofcom rules

Channel 4 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Channel 4 News accepted that 'the reporter's methodology was flawed'

Channel 4 News has been censured by media regulator Ofcom for misleading viewers in a report about policing.

The Metropolitan Police complained last March over a story about an official review into possible police corruption.

It has transpired that interviewees who were presented as members of the public in the story were in fact pre-selected and had ties with the broadcaster.

Channel 4 said it accepted that the report "fell below the normal standards".

The news broadcast in question was about a review into the investigation of the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

Five people were asked for their reactions on the street in Brixton, south London.

One was identified as working for youth marketing agency Livity - but it transpired that four worked for the same organisation.

The Channel 4 reporter had previously been employed by the agency, and the organisation also lists Channel 4 as one of its clients.

'Serious' breach

Ofcom there was "a significant failure" because the broadcast made it appear that three of the interviewees were randomly selected members of the public.

The regulator said broadcasters had a "fundamental obligation... to ensure that audiences are not misled by the manner in which news is presented".

It added that "breaches of this nature are amongst the most serious that can be committed by a broadcaster because they go to the heart of the relationship of trust between a broadcaster and its audience".

However, Ofcom said "any unfairness resulting from the selection and presentation of the vox pops in the Brixton report was not capable of materially or adversely affecting viewers' opinions of the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] in a way that was unfair".

'Poor judgment'

It added: "Therefore, overall, we did not consider that the MPS was treated unfairly in the programme as broadcast."

Channel 4 said the error was due to "poor judgment by a junior reporter".

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: "Ofcom accepted that all the individuals interviewed in this brief report were expressing their own genuinely held opinions on camera, which reflected similarly held views by many others - and has ruled that the overall 20-minute item about the Ellison review was duly impartial.

"Whilst we do not agree that the audience was misled in any meaningful way, we accept that the reporter's methodology was flawed - it was an error of judgment and we broadcast an apology and clarification about this within a week."

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