Broadcasters who aired graphic footage of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby have been cleared of breaching guidelines.
Ofcom, which regulates broadcasters, ruled that TV channels including BBC News, Sky News, and ITV News did not break rules when reporting on the murder of Mr Rigby, a drummer with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, in Woolwich on May 22.
The regulator had received 680 complaints regarding the reports, with some viewers saying the coverage was “too graphic and distressing”, “insensitive and disrespectful” to Fusilier Rigby’s family, and that it offered one of his killers the chance to justify his actions.
In their report, Ofcom said that viewers would be watching with the expectation of hearing the latest account of the incident, which would “inevitably” involve material which may be graphic and distressing.
The report stated: “We considered we should take particular note of the significance of the right to freedom of expression in this case because news programming has a duty to inform the public as fully as possible when incidents such as this occur.
“Taking all the factors outlined above into account, we concluded that all of the programmes investigated ensured that the broadcast material that might have caused offence was justified by the context and that the broadcasters therefore applied generally accepted standards.”
However they also said they were concerned about some aspects of the reporting, in particular the “looping” of graphic images, without a specific warning to viewers beforehand.
Ofcom investigated a number of different reports aired on the day of the incident broadcast by radio station LBC, ITV, Channel 5, Channel 4, BBC News, BBC Four, Sky News, and Al Jazeera.
It said that in the majority of cases, warnings to viewers were given, but Ofcom offered guidance that in future, reports give appropriate warnings before broadcasting content which may be offensive.
Michael Adebowale, aged 22, and Michael Adebolajo, aged 29, were found guilty at the Old Bailey last month of Fusilier Rigby’s murder.
The regulator had ruled on the matter before the pair were found guilty, but the publishing of the ruling was delayed until the completion of the trial.