The US perennial religious complainer Rajan Zed continuously rails against beers betaring references to Hinduism so it is interesting to read what the UK drinks censor makes of religious references in marketing.
The Portman Group represents the UK
alcohol trade and has a self censorship role to censor drinks packaging that may inspire offence taking. It recently considered a complaint against the Australian Lucky Buddha beer brand.
Complaint (which was not made by a
religious person but by a food and drinks consultancy, Zenith Global).
The shape of the bottle, the name and the Buddha symbol are all prominently displayed on the bottle. This may cause widespread offence to Buddhism followers
who consider the Buddha as a sacred symbol to the religion. Displaying this on an alcoholic beverage is perceived as disrespectful to the faith.
The company explained that they were an Australian company who had sold their
uniquely packaged beer for over 12 years on the international market. The company stated that they owned the Lucky Beer and Lucky Buddha brands and that the bottle and the logo were trademarks in many parts of the world. The company explained that the
product was produced in China, was sold internationally in restaurants and supermarkets and had been sold for 10 years in UK supermarkets and restaurants. They argued that, if their product caused serious or widespread offence, they would have heard
about it: they said they had never received an email or negative comment from any government or religious agency.
The company said the bottle showed Pu Tai, the Laughing Monk, not Buddha. The company explained that: Pu Tai's image
was used in amulets and within restaurants; Pu Tai had become a deity of contentment and abundance; people rubbed Pu Tai's belly for wealth, good luck and prosperity; Pu Tai was the patron saint of restauranteurs, fortune-tellers and bartenders; when
someone ate or drank too much, it was jokingly blamed on Pu Tai.
The Portman Group assessment: Complaint not upheld
The Panel first discussed whether the product name or packaging had caused serious
or widespread offence. The Panel noted the product was sold in predominantly Buddhist countries including Thailand. The Panel noted that there were different named Buddhas and different images of Buddha. Despite the fact that the bottle included the
brand name Lucky Buddha, the Panel considered that the bottle was in fact a representation of Pu Tai. The Panel also noted that this product had reached the complaints process following a compliance audit of the new Code and considered that it did not
provide evidence that Buddhists were offended by the name or packaging.
The Panel accordingly did not uphold the complaint under Code rule 3.3.
Ofcom issued a draft notice to suspend the broadcasting licence of Club TV Limited, after its channel Peace TV Urdu repeatedly rebroadcast material that we had previously found incited murder.
Ofcom has a duty to suspend a broadcast licence if we are
satisfied that the licensee has broadcast a programme likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime; that it has therefore contravened its licence conditions; and that the contravention justifies the revocation of the licence.
November 2019, having received Ofcom's draft suspension notice, Club TV surrendered its licence. Its sister company Lord Production Inc Limited, which held the licence to broadcast the English language Peace TV service, also surrendered its licence at
the same time.
The Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu services are no longer broadcasting.
The Rightly Guided Khalifas Islam Channel, 11 November 2018, 23:00
Islam Channel is an Islamic-focused, English language satellite television channel broadcast in over 136 countries worldwide, including the UK. Its output
includes religious instruction programmes, current affairs, documentaries and entertainment programmes, all from an Islamic perspective.
The Rightly Guided Khalifas1 is a religious education series on the history of the Qur'an,
detailing its origins, its written compilation and the measures used to preserve its original wording.
During routine monitoring, Ofcom identified potentially antisemitic content during the programme. Eg
The graphic was shown at the same time as this narration. It appeared to be an on-screen graphic of a letter written in Arabic. Translated into English, it read: Israel, that was established on tyranny and oppression with its beliefs
and sacred aspects, continues to practice its troublemaking and continues with its poisonous acts with its attempt to change the meaning of the Qur'an. It wants the obliteration of our beliefs and religion and in this way, it continues to practice what
their forefathers had engaged in the past, particularly in their practice of changing the words in the past.6 Signed: Shaykh Al Azhar
We considered both the spoken content in Arabic about events in 1961 and the
English subtitles of that narration raised issues under the following Code rules:
Rule 3.2: Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television206programmes...except where it is justified by the
Rule 3.3: Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television206services...except where it is justified by the context...
Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...Such material may include, but is not limited to206discriminatory treatment or language
(for example on the grounds of206race, religion or belief...).
Ofcom Decision: Breaches of Rules 3.2, 3.3 and 2.3
The broadcast of this potentially very harmful and highly offensive
antisemitic content represents serious breaches of the Code.
We are putting the Licensee on notice that we will consider these breaches for the imposition of a statutory sanction.
Kitaab-ut-Tawheed, Part 59, Peace TV Urdu, 22 November 2017, 09:00
Strengthening Your Family: The Valley of the Homosexuals Episode 9, Peace TV, 1 1 March 2018, 11:30
Media and Islam, War or Peace?, Peace TV, 13 November 2017, 07:30 and 14:00
Better Half or Bitter Half, Peace TV, 13 November 2017, 18:30
Umdatul Akhaam, Part 162, Peace TV, 13 November 2017, 22:30
This Bulletin sets out Ofcom's Decisions on the five programmes above.
Peace TV Urdu's licence is held by Club TV Ltd. Peace TV's licence is held by Lord Production Inc Ltd. Both licensees are
majority controlled by Universal Broadcasting Corporation Limited1.
Through monitoring, Ofcom identified content raising issues under the Code in four of these programmes. We received a complaint about the other
In accordance with our published procedures, Ofcom watched all the programmes and took careful account of all the relevant information, including the individual facts of each case and the representations
made by the licensees.
Ofcom has decided that four of the five programmes breached the Code, and one did not. The reasons are set out in full in each of the corresponding decisions which follow this summary. We have
notified the relevant licensees that we will consider the breaches in two of the programmes, Kitaab-ut-Tawheed and Valley of the Homosexuals, for the imposition of statutory sanctions.
Kitaab-ut-Tawheed: A religious scholar gave a view on the practice of magic. The programme breached Rule 3.1 (incitement to crime), Rule 3.2 (hate speech), Rule 3.3 (abusive treatment) and Rule 2.3 (offence).
Strengthening Your Family: The Valley of the Homosexuals. The presenter discussed a religious perspective on homosexuality. The programme breached Rules 3.2 (hate speech), Rule 3.3 (abusive treatment) and Rule 2.3
Media and Islam, War or Peace?: The presenter gave a religious view on the punishment for apostasy. The programme breached Rules 3.2 (hate speech), Rule 3.3 (abusive treatment) and Rule 2.3
Better Half or Bitter Half: The presenter gave a religious view on child marriage. The programme breached Rule 2.3 (offence).
Part 162: The presenter discussed specific religious texts on prescribed punishments. We did not consider this programme was in breach of our rules.