Iranian channel attacks UK media regulators

Press TV reacts angrily after it was taken off the air by British media watchdog for broadcasting from Tehran.

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
January 21, 2012 15:37
4 minute read.
Eteham, Iranian newspapers

Eteham, Iranian newspapers_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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LONDON – The Iranian regime’s English- language news channel Press TV, has reacted angrily after it was taken off the air, accusing Britain’s media watchdog of being subservient to the government and the monarchy.

Ofcom, the UK’s independent communications regulator and competition authority, revoked Press TV’s license on Friday after it breached the Communications Act by broadcasting from Tehran.

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Ofcom said it had decided to revoke the license with immediate effect. Press TV was removed on Friday evening from the Sky satellite service that had hosted it.

Ofcom ruled that Press TV failed to declare that Tehran rather than London was its editorial base.

Press TV presenters include anti-Israel activists former MP George Galloway, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth and Yvonne Ridley, a journalist kidnapped by the Taliban in 2001 and who subsequently converted to Islam.

Tweeting on Friday, the Hezbollah-supporting Galloway said: “Champions of liberty the British govt have now taken Press TV off Sky.”

Referring to Ofcom as “the media arm of the royal family,” Press TV responded by saying that there is every indication that Ofcom is “subservient to the British government and the monarchy” and launched an attack on Britain’s domestic and foreign policies.



The Iranian mouthpiece suggested that revealing these issues in its news coverage had an impact on Ofcom’s decision.

“It gets both its authority and funding from the British government.

Ofcom was created by an act of Parliament and gets most of its funding from governmental grant-in-aid,” Press TV said.

It also claimed it had revealed close ties between the royal family and “UK-founded monarchies in the Persian Gulf region, including the autocratic regimes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which have been oppressing their people for decades.

“Press TV has also provided critical coverage of the extravagant costs of Britain’s royal wedding at a time of great financial difficulty for ordinary Britons,” the station said.

“The channel covered the 2011 unrest in Britain and the heavy-handed police crackdown, drawing the resentment of London’s ruling establishment,” it said, suggesting this might be part of the decision to pull it off the air.

In November, Ofcom wrote to Press TV setting out how it was breaching the Communications Act. It offered the channel two choices: switch editorial control to the UK, or transfer the broadcasting license to Iran.

“Broadcasting rules require that a license is held by the person who is in general control of the TV service: that is, the person that chooses the programs to be shown in the service and organizes the program schedule,” Ofcom said.

“Ofcom gave Press TV the opportunity to apply to have its operations in Tehran correctly licensed by Ofcom and offered to assist it to do so,” the media regulator said.

The station failed to respond or put into practice either of the two options, Ofcom said.

“Press TV was given the opportunity to make representations on Ofcom’s ‘minded to revoke’ letter,” the regulator said on Friday. “Press TV has failed to make the necessary application and Ofcom has therefore revoked its license to broadcast in the UK.”

Vowing to do everything possible to make sure that its voice “will definitely reach its audience in the UK,” Press TV said that Ofcom had failed to grasp the reality of mass communication in the modern era and the impossibility of containing the flow of information.

Last year the Iranian news channel was fined £100,000 by Ofcom for airing an interview with Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian Newsweek journalist incarcerated by the Islamic regime.

The interview had been conducted under duress.

Press TV failed to meet the January 2011 deadline to pay the fine.

Galloway has been repeatedly criticized by Ofcom. In 2010, he was criticized for breaching impartiality rules.

Ofcom investigated after it had received complaints that Galloway’s show was biased against Israel.

Also in 2010, it ruled that a Press TV program on the Gaza flotilla raid presented by Booth had breached broadcasting code rules on impartiality.

The program – which began with a pro-Palestinian song and anti-Israel images, featured recorded and live interviews with similar views and descriptions of the Israel Navy raid as “barbaric” and a “massacre” – was ruled to be one-sided and failing to offer alternative views.

In 2008, Press TV was accused of promoting Holocaust denial after an article appeared on its website, titled “The Walls of Auschwitz,” claiming that the massacre of Jewish people during the Holocaust was “scientifically impossible.”

Earlier this month, Press TV’s chief executive, Mohammad Sarafraz, said Ofcom was part of “a desperate effort to silence an alternative voice in the UK.”

“It is evident that the government’s campaign against Press TV has its roots in the channel’s extensive coverage of the multiple crises created by London’s domestic and foreign policies,” he said.

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