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Ofcom, the UK broadcasting authority and communications regulator, has upheld complaints of anti-Israel bias against the English-language Iranian broadcasting service Press TV.
Following complaints from the public, Ofcom investigated four programs hosted by MP George Galloway, which were all broadcast during the Gaza offensive in January.
In a bulletin released on its Web site yesterday, Ofcom ruled that the channel had breached the Communications Act of 2003 by allowing presenter Mr. Galloway, head of the Respect political party, to hold a chat show that addressed Israel's actions in Operation Cast Lead earlier this year without portraying the Israeli side of the conflict.
Mr. Galloway, an outspoken critic of Israel, accused it of "committing war crimes," labeled actions in the Gaza conflict an "apartheid-style occupation" and "murdering United Nations employees" and claimed Israel was engaged in "slaughtering women and children by the hundreds in just two weeks."
Noting that Galloway implored viewers not to "fall for any Israeli propaganda" and made comments such as "collectively punishing people is a Nazi tactic," Ofcom upheld the viewers' complaints, ruling Press TV had breached impartiality rules.
In the bulletin on its Web site, Ofcom said: "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict understandably raises extremely strong views and emotions from all sides. It is right that broadcasters are able to reflect such opinions within its programmes. There must be a place for such programming which gives air to highly opinionated and vocal reaction on issues of such importance. However, in order to comply with the Code, broadcasters must ensure that, when discussing matters of major political or industrial controversy or a major matter relating to current public policy, a real range of significant views are included in a programme. Further, in such cases, when presenting any significant alternative view, it must be given due weight and consideration."
Complainants argued that the shows failed to present both sides of the Gaza conflict, that Galloway's broadcasts amounted to "Iranian propaganda" and that the Press TV presenter did not conduct a balanced debate.
The regulator also decided to investigate another edition of Comment, which was broadcast in January. Ofcom said the situation in Gaza at the time was considered a matter of "major political controversy" under the broadcasting code and must be treated with "due impartiality," while alternative viewpoints must be given "due weight."
In the case of the three editions of Comment, Ofcom said the "overwhelming majority of content of the programmes were from a pro-Palestinian point of view and were highly critical of Israeli policy."
The regulator noted that Galloway spoke "from an entirely pro-Palestinian point of view. There was not one telephone call from a pro-Israeli position in any of the programmes and only the most limited and short text or email messages from viewers from a pro-Israeli position," adding that Israeli perspective was not "adequately represented" and Galloway failed to give "due weight" to alternative views.
Ofcom spokesman Ed Taylor told The Jerusalem Post that "in addition to these breaches, Press TV is still under investigation for other charges."