UK's Channel 4 cleared over mosque investigation

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LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) British broadcaster Channel 4 was cleared today of misleading viewers or presenting material likely to incite racial hatred following a recent undercover documentary on Britain's mosques.

Police in West Midlands, central England, had originally investigated comments made by preachers on Channel 4's Dispatches programme Undercover Mosque but later turned the focus on the documentary makers themselves.

The police said the programme had been heavily edited but after investigating the case, media regulator Ofcom said Channel 4 had dealt with the subject matter responsibly and should continue to tackle controversial subjects.

The programme featured undercover recordings from speakers which the channel described as homophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist and condemnatory of non-Muslims.

''Investigative journalism plays an essential role in public service broadcasting and is clearly in the public interest,'' Ofcom said in its ruling.

PUBLIC INTEREST ''Ofcom considers it of paramount importance that broadcasters, such as Channel 4, continue to explore controversial subject matter.

Undercover Mosque was a legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest.'' The police referred the case to Ofcom for investigation and the regulator also received 364 complaints about the programme and said these appeared to be part of a campaign.

The police had found there was insufficient evidence to charge the speakers in the documentary, even though they said some of the comments might be considered ''offensive''.

Channel 4, in its response to the Ofcom investigation, said the police had shown ''staggering naivety'' in their understanding of television production and the fact that long speeches would have to be reduced to fit into the programme.

It said in some eyes, the police action ''gave legitimacy to people preaching a message of hate'' and said it was perverse that Channel 4 had found itself under investigation.

West Midlands Police said it acknowledged the findings from Ofcom and said it was usual practice to refer cases to regulatory bodies.

REUTERS SYU KP1936

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