A live report in which Sky News journalist Colin Brazier was seen picking through the belongings of victims of the MH17 air disaster in Ukraine amounted to a “significant lapse of judgment”, according to Ofcom.
The UK's broadcasting regulator said the report, screened in July following the apparent shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines jet, was “capable of causing considerable offence” and breached its programme code.
But it said it is to take no further action bearing in mind the need to make decisions in challenging circumstances and apologies which were later issued, and considered the matter had now been “resolved”.
During the live item during Sky News With Lorna Dunkley, shortly after noon on July 20, Brazier was seen crouched among some of the salvaged possessions and picking up items, telling viewers: “Here are, I think it’s a small girl’s bag by the look of things ... a set of keys ... toothbrush.”
He quickly returned them to a suitcase and said: “We shouldn’t really be doing this, I suppose really.”
It prompted 205 complaints to Ofcom from viewers who claimed his actions were offensive.
Sky said the reporting of such events meant difficult editorial decisions “need to be made at speed and with conviction”, but it acknowledged that it “fell short of the high standards” to which it aspired. Within hours the broadcaster and Brazier had issued their apologies.
Sky also reminded news teams to exercise sensitivity and pledged to update guidelines to journalists.
In a report published today, Ofcom said Brazier’s action were “capable of causing considerable offence” and said the “offence was not justified by the context”, breaching programme guidelines.
But it said editorial decisions for reporters were “particularly challenging” in those circumstances and noted the apologies which were made.
Ofcom’s report went on: “Despite the offence caused in this case, Ofcom considered that this brief but significant lapse of judgement by a news reporter should not prevent broadcast journalists from reporting live on sensitive and challenging news stories.”
An Ofcom spokesman said: “Ofcom has a responsibility to protect viewers from offensive content, including issues such as distress and the violation of human dignity.
“After careful consideration, and taking into account steps taken by the broadcaster after the incident, the investigation has been resolved.”
:: Ofcom is to take no further action after offensive language was broadcast during a live performance of a Monty Python comeback show from the O2 Arena in London as a result of human error in July. The regulator said the matter – for which TV channel Gold apologised – has been “resolved”.