Woolwich murder: Did broadcasters go too far?

ofcomBroadcasters including the BBC, ITV and Sky News are being investigated by Ofcom due to airing graphic scenes following the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May. The media regulator received almost 1000 complaints about the footage, which featured one of the alleged attackers with blood-stained hands and wielding what looked like a meat cleaver.

The footage, shot on a mobile phone, formed part of pre-watershed news bulletins across all the major broadcasters, resulting in a flood of complaints. It is understood that half of these complaints arose from an ITV News broadcast at 6.30pm – the first airing of the footage.

Last month ITN (producer of ITV news) justified the footage, saying: “We carefully considered showing this footage ahead of broadcast and made the decision to do so on a public interest basis as the material is integral to understanding the horrific incident… It was editorially justified to show such footage in the aftermath of such a shocking attack, and we prefaced it on ITV News at 6.30pm and News at Ten with appropriate warnings to make viewers aware in advance of the graphic images about to be shown.”

The regulator is assessing if any potential offence could be justified in the context and if the footage was appropriately scheduled for children.

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