Ausaf TV Licence Revocation

Is this the first time Ofcom has revoked a licence before the channel even launched?


In an unusual step, Ofcom has announced it’s revoked a broadcast licence before the channel has even launched. I don’t recall this happening before. Ofcom decided to investigate whether those in control of Ausaf UK, the licensee for Ausaf TV, were fit and proper to hold a licence. Ausaf UK originally applied for an Ofcom licence in November 2016 and was granted a TLCS (Television Licensable Content Service) two months later in January 2017. It seems, the regulator’s change of heart was prompted by a BBC Radio 4 ‘File on 4’ programme broadcast on October 3, 2017. Presented by investigative reporter Manveen Rana, ‘Extremism: Hidden in Plain Sight’ exposed the hate speech, sectarianism and even support for Jihad appearing in old media – on TV, on the radio and in newspapers sold in corner shops. It asked whether focusing the fight against extremism on the dark corners of the internet means missing the extremism in plain sight.

‘This issue first came to Ofcom’s attention in the context of a File on 4 programme4 on BBC Radio 4 which alleged that the Daily Ausaf London has published articles that: promote intolerance of the Ahmadiyya community; celebrate militant groups and individuals proscribed in the UK; and promote a violent interpretation of Jihad.’

Timetable of events

12 November 2016 – Ausaf UK applies to Ofcom for licence

24 January 2017 – Ofcom grants licence NUMBER TLCS101719

03 October 2017 – BBC Radio 4 File on 4 programme broadcasts its investigation ‘Extremism: Hidden in Plain Sight’.

22 June 2018 – Ofcom ‘minded to revoke the licence on the basis it was no longer satisfied that the licensee remained fit and proper to hold a broadcast licence’.

The reasons Ofcom gave for its revocation decision:

  • the individual in control of Ausaf UK Limited had close links to the Pakistan and UK editions of the Daily Ausaf newspaper, in which articles were published which we considered amounted to hate speech and incitement to crime/terrorist actions;
  • the licensee provided misleading or false information about the links between the Daily Ausaf and Ausaf UK Limited during the course of our investigation; and
  • there is a material risk that the licensee could breach our broadcasting rules; for example, by airing similar content to that published in the Daily Ausaf on Ausaf TV, which would be harmful to viewers if the licensee were permitted to broadcast; and
  • this brings into question public confidence in the regulatory activity if Ofcom were to remain satisfied that the licensee was fit and proper to broadcast.

In light of these serious findings, we are no longer satisfied that that those in control of Ausaf UK Limited are fit and proper to hold a broadcast licence. We have therefore revoked the licence.

The channel had not started broadcasting, and it will now be prevented from doing so.

Here are the full details on the Ofcom website.

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘File on 4 – Extremism: Hidden in Plain Sight’ here.