Two UK television stations, whose founder has been banned from the country for almost a decade, have been fined £300,000 for inciting murder and broadcasting hate speeches.
The media regulator Ofcom found that four programmes on Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu breached broadcasting rules on incitement to commit crime, hate speech, abuse and offence after it aired diatribes that described people “worse than animals” and advocated the execution of magicians.
It ruled that the broadcasts were “very serious” and could encourage vulnerable viewers to commit killings.
The watchdog had threatened to strip the stations, which claimed to reach 200 million viewers, of the licences but both voluntarily surrendered them last November.
“In this case, the potential for very serious harm if this material incited others was clear, “ the watchdog said.
“Ofcom was concerned that the statements made by the scholar had the clear potential to influence impressionable viewers by encouraging serious crime, up to and including murder, and/or leading to disorder in relation to members of the public, in particular to Muslim people practicing magic as part of their faith.
“We also found that the scholar’s religious standing gave his statements greater weight and authority with the viewer, which compounded the seriousness of the breach. Ofcom considers the potential harm arising from such hate speech to be very serious.”
Both the satellite stations are funded by UK registered charity the Islamic Research Foundation International.
The licence for Peace TV was held by Lord Productions Limited, which has been fined £100,000, and Club TV, which held the licence for Peace TV Urdu, has been fined £200,000 over the breaches.
“In reaching its decision on the imposition of a sanction in this case, Ofcom has taken full account of the need to ensure that any penalty acts as a deterrent, including to other broadcasters,” it added.
“In this case Ofcom believed that a financial penalty was necessary to reflect the serious nature of the Code breaches and to act as an effective incentive to comply with the Code, for other licensees.”
Club TV and Lord Productions Limited are both owned by parent company Universal Broadcasting Corporation Limited.
Ofcom previously fined Club TV £65,000 for hate speech violations in 2016.
Indian-born Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is based in Malaysia, founded UBCL and is also the founder and chair of the IRFI charity.
Two of the breaches related to him.
The 53-year-old, who preached on the stations, is banned from the UK, India and Bangladesh and is accused by the Indian government of laundering £23m.
India and Bangladesh have accused him of inspiring terror acts, after the perpetrators of two separate attacks had allegedly followed his sermons.
In 2010, Britain banned Mr Naik from entering the country, citing “unacceptable behaviour”, although it never spelled out the nature of the behaviour.