Jon Snow and Nigel Farage cleared by Ofcom over Brexit rally remarks

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image captionOfcom decided neither Jon Snow (left) nor Nigel Farage broke its rules

Channel 4 News host Jon Snow has been cleared by Ofcom after more than 2,600 people complained about a remark he made about a pro-Brexit rally in March.

Snow didn't break rules by saying he had "never seen so many white people in one place", the media watchdog decided.

Ofcom also investigated Nigel Farage's comment on his LBC radio show two days later that Snow "should be attacked".

Seven people complained, but the Brexit Party leader was cleared because he added that he meant a verbal attack.

Snow's original comments came at the end of of Channel 4 News on 29 March as he reflected on protests in Westminster on the day the UK was originally meant to have left the European Union.

"It has been the most extraordinary day... I've never seen so many white people in one place. It's an extraordinary story," he told viewers.

image copyrightEPA
image captionTwo separate pro-Brexit demonstrations ended in Parliament Square on 29 March

Channel Four described the comment as "a spontaneous, unscripted observation". Ofcom said the remark "was ambiguous in its meaning and touched on a clearly sensitive issue" and "had the potential to cause offence".

However, the broadcasting regulator also noted that the programme included discussions with people with a wide range of views; that the programme was live; and that the crowd did appear to be "predominantly white".

Any offence was "sufficiently contextualised", Ofcom ruled.

Two days later, Mr Farage had a heated discussion with former Labour Party spin doctor Alistair Campbell on LBC about the march. Mr Campbell said protesters "started beating up journalists" and asked the host to condemn "people who attack journalists, like Trump does".

Mr Farage said: "Well I think Jon Snow should be attacked without doubt, but that's slightly a separate issue."

Asked why, he replied: "Because of his terrible condescending bias, but that's a separate issue."

'Verbally attacked'

Ofcom said his comments "had the clear potential to be interpreted by the audience as a reference to the use of physical violence against Jon Snow".

But it noted that, four minutes later, Mr Farage read out a tweet accusing him of inciting violence and then gave his response.

"No! Verbally. Verbally attacked for his disgraceful coverage of the Leave rally on Friday," he told listeners.

LBC pointed out that during the discussion, Mr Farage had condemned people who physically attacked journalists, and had spoken about his desire for people to have "peaceful and democratic means of expressing their anger".

Therefore, sufficient context was given, and Mr Farage did not break the Ofcom broadcasting code, the regulator decided.

Ofcom did, however, warn broadcasters that "particular care" is needed when making statements that could be taken as being "highly inflammatory and provocative", given the "current volatile public discourse surrounding Brexit".

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