The Guardian: Iranian state broadcaster claims Ofcom agreed to ‘royal family’s demands’ over calls to revoke its broadcasting licence.
Iranian state broadcaster claims Ofcom agreed to ‘royal family’s demands’ over calls to revoke its broadcasting licence
Ofcom has “succumbed to the British royal family’s demands” to revoke the broadcasting licence of the Iranian state broadcaster’s English-language outlet Press TV, the channel has claimed.
In a rambling statement posted on the Press TV website, the broadcaster said that officials at the media regulator, who were “influenced by powerful pro-Israeli politicians and US sympathisers”, had succumbed to pressure from “members of the royal family and the government” and banned the channel from the British airwaves.
Ofcom ruled in May that the channel, the overseas voice of the Tehran government, committed a serious breach of the broadcasting code when it aired an interview with Maziar Bahari, an imprisoned Newsweek journalist. Bahari, who was held for four months, says he was interviewed under duress and forced to read from a prepared script.
When it made its ruling, the regulator indicated that the transgression was so grave that it was likely to impose either a heavy fine or the termination of Press TV’s licence. Officials from the watchdog are now understood to have told the channel it has decided to pull it off the airwaves. Press TV will be allowed to submit a final appeal, before Ofcom announces its final decision in the coming weeks.
Both George Galloway, the former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and Ken Livingstone, the Labour London mayoral candidate, have worked for Press TV, and Galloway’s show has previously been sanctioned by Ofcom for anti-Israeli bias.
The channel posted a mixture of statements and stories on its website on Friday, complaining about the decision. In one, it said: “You can even have a gay sex channel on British television and that’s no problem for David Cameron’s media regulator, Ofcom. But you can’t be a news channel that looks at the news from a different perspective to the grim, prevailing orthodoxy of Washington and London.”
While Ofcom will insist that it came under no pressure from ministers, according to the WikiLeaks cables, the Foreign Office told an American diplomat in 2010 that the government was “exploring ways to limit the operations of … Press TV”.
At the time, the department warned the US that: “UK law sets a very high standard for denying licences to broadcasters. Licences can only be denied in cases where national security is threatened, or if granting a licence would be contrary to Britain’s obligations under international law. Currently neither of these standards can be met with respect to Press TV, but if further sanctions are imposed on Iran in the coming months a case may be able to be made on the second criterion.”
An Ofcom spokesman refused to comment.