Rupert Murdoch’s talkTV has apologised to Mind after claiming on-air that the mental health charity funded the legal fees of asylum seekers.
Presenter Mike Graham claimed on his show, The Independent Republic of Mike Graham, last month that the charity was claiming to fund mental health support while actually paying migrants’ legal fees.
Mind complained over the claims, which it has said were “plain wrong”, and pointed out that it was never approached for comment by the new channel.
In an on-air apology, broadcast just after 12.30pm on Friday, talkTV admitted wrongdoing during the show in which it said it “questioned why various organisations, including Mind, were providing funding to a charity called Migrants Organise”.
It added: “Mind has pointed out to us that the funds it gave to Migrants Organise were given for specific work to support mental health and not for legal fees of illegal immigrants. It says it’s transparent about the work it does and details of the projects it funds are on its website.
“We didn’t offer Mind an opportunity to respond at the time and are happy to do so now. We are sorry for any confusion caused by the discussion on the show.”
It comes after the Guardian recently reported that in its first two months the rightwing channel, fronted by Piers Morgan, has been struggling to attract audiences, despite tens of millions of pounds of investment. Such is concern that Murdoch himself is understood to have taken an active interest.
After the original comments were broadcast, on 10 June, Mind said it had received messages of “negativity” about its mental health support for refugees ad asylum seekers.
It added: “We do, and we’re really proud of that. We’re here for everyone. And that includes refugees and asylum seekers in England & Wales, who have often experienced unimaginable trauma.”
Following Friday’s apology, Mind said it only found out about the claims after it was approached by supporters directly because they were not approached for a right of reply from the channel.
“What talkTV got wrong wasn’t that we work with refugees, but how we do it. Our work is around supporting mental health. We shout about this from the rooftops,” it said in a statement.
Highlighting the media’s power to influence views on mental health, it said it was important for Mind to challenge the false claims.
“That’s why we decided to approach talkTV direct and ask for a correction. As a charity our reputation matters, the importance of the work we do to support mental health even more so. The media [have] immense power. So often the media [are] a force for good,” it added.
“At Mind we know that as well as anyone, having seen how the media, across the political spectrum, [have] helped changed our national conversation around mental health. But when the media [get] things wrong, as we all do, as a charity it is important we also challenge this. So we did. Today, we are grateful to talkTV that it took the difficult decision to apologise on air.”
Talktv did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
An Ofcom spokesperson said the apology was not the result of an investigation by the communications regulator.