Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ofcom Cites Sky Sports for Broadcasting Episode with "Muslim Wrestler" Character

The UK media regulatory agency Ofcom has found Sky Sports in breach of Rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code for showing an episode of the program Late Night Smackdown: The Great American Bash in which a character named "Mohammad Hassan" appeared soon after the July 7 and July 21st London bombings.

"We accept that American professional wrestling comprises of ‘wrestlers’ taking part in contrived feuds and faked brawls, with ongoing storylines and characters. The programme was appropriately scheduled and a clear warning was given. We therefore do not consider that the programme was in breach of the requirements in the Broadcasting Code regarding the protection of children. We also appreciate that the match was broadcast live from the US and that Sky may not have been aware in advance of its precise content, in particular the inclusion of footage from the previous encounter between the two characters (as explained above, Sky had not broadcast the bout itself). However, the broadcast included a fight involving the ‘Mohammed Hassan’ character, whose established act included masked men in combat-style clothing, references to religious practices and the use of emotive language (for example, ‘martyr’, ‘sacrifice’ and ‘infidel’). We are pleased to note that this character has now been withdrawn. However we believe that his inclusion in Sky’s output, given both the current environment and the context in which he appeared, in this type of programme with the use of religious and emotive references linked to militant activity, was a mistake. Rule 2.3 states that, in applying these standards, broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence, for example discriminatory treatment, is justified by the context. In this case, given that this was a wrestling match for entertainment we consider that there was not adequate justification. Our concern is heightened by the fact that The Great American Bash was shown so soon after the events in London on 7 and 21 July 2005."

Read the entire ruling here.

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