Freedom of the Press in the UK? – Ofcom censors Press TV


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Iran’s Press TV loses UK licence

January 20, 2012

Iranian news network Press TV has had its licence revoked by the media regulator Ofcom and will no longer be allowed to broadcast in the UK. Ofcom said the state broadcaster’s English language outlet had breached several broadcasting licence rules over editorial control of the channel. Press TV has also failed to pay a £100,000 fine imposed last year. The channel called the decision “a clear example of censorship”. It will be removed from Sky on 20 January. The £100,000 fine was imposed last year after the network broadcast an interview with imprisoned Newsweek and Channel 4 journalist Maziar Bahari, which the Ofcom said had been conducted under duress.

Ofcom said Press TV had “indicated it is unwilling and unable to pay”. It was during the investigation into the Bahari interview that the media regulator formed the impression that editorial decisions on the channel were being controlled by the offices in Tehran, instead of the UK. Press TV was given the opportunity to respond and make the relevant amendments needed to comply with the broadcasting code, but “failed to make the necessary application”, Ofcom said. In a statement issued to the BBC, Press TV’s newsroom director Mr Hamid Emadi said: “We asked Ofcom if Press TV Limited did not have control over the broadcast, why was it getting fined, if it did have control, why would the licence be revoked?

“Ofcom contradictions are nothing new for Press TV. The British government’s tool to control the media has, on several occasions, changed its decisions regarding Press TV in its two-year campaign against the alternative news channel.” The statement also claimed that Ofcom, which it called “the media arm of the Royal family”, had failed to respond to a letter sent by its Chief Executive earlier this month. Press TV channel launched in 2007 to break what Iran’s state broadcaster called a Western “stranglehold” over the world’s media.

Iran’s Press TV loses UK licence

January 20, 2012

Press TV, the Iranian state broadcaster’s English-language outlet, has been forced off the air in the UK after Ofcom revoked its licence for breaching the Communications Act. Ofcom found that Press TV’s practice of running its editorial oversight from Tehran, Iran’s capital, is in breach of broadcasting licence rules in the UK. “Ofcom has decided to revoke the licence held by Press TV Limited with immediate effect,” the media regulator said in a statement. Ofcom wrote a letter to Press TV in November highlighting the issue and offered a choice of two remedies. The first was to switch editorial control for Press TV’s programming to the UK, the second to transfer the broadcasting licence to Iran.

“Broadcasting rules require that a licence is held by the person who is in general control of the TV service: that is, the person that chooses the programmes to be shown in the service and organises the programme schedule,” Ofcom said. “Ofcom gave Press TV the opportunity to apply to have its operations in Tehran correctly licensed by Ofcom and Ofcom offered to assist it to do so,” said the regulator. Ofcom said Press TV failed to respond to or implement either of these two options. “Press TV was given the opportunity to make representations on Ofcom’s ‘minded to revoke’ letter,” the regulator said. “Press TV has failed to make the necessary application and Ofcom has therefore revoked Press TV’s licence to broadcast in the UK.”

The broadcaster was fined £100,000 last year after the channel aired an interview with Maziar Bahari, an imprisoned Newsweek journalist, that had been conducted under duress. It emerged on Friday that Press TV has failed to meet the deadline for paying the fine, which was due in early January. Ofcom said Press TV had been “unwilling and unable” to pay the fine and that it was “pursuing this”. Ofcom has contacted BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster that carries the Press TV channel, to have it removed from its broadcast schedule. Press TV is expected to be removed from the Sky satellite service by the end of Friday. George Galloway, the former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, is Press TV’s best-known UK presenter. Galloway has previously been sanctioned by Ofcom for anti-Israeli bias in one of his Press TV shows.

Ofcom revokes Press TV’s UK license

January 20, 2012

In a questionable move and without offering a valid response to the Press TV CEO’s letters, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) has revoked Press TV’s broadcasting license and finally removed the channel from the Sky platform. Ofcom has revoked Press TV’s license for what it calls breaching of the broadcasting code. Earlier, Ofcom also hit Press TV with a fine of 100 thousand pounds. The British media regulator stepped up pressure on Press TV after the news channel covered British police crackdowns on anti-austerity protesters in London and other British cities. Ofcom is said to have close ties to Britain’s royal family. And the cables released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks show that Press TV’s programs on the royal wedding, which many in the country described as extravagant, angered the royal family.

Many observers have also noted that the British government’s hostile campaign against Press TV has its roots in the channel’s extensive and transparent coverage of the role that the British government played in the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Press TV has extensively given coverage to Britain’s support for autocratic Persian Gulf monarchies and even given legitimacy to the dictatorial regimes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In January, Press TV’s CEO Mohammad Sarafraz sent a letter to Ofcom questioning the independence of the British regulatory body given that the British Secretary of State has the power to appoint or remove from office Ofcom’s chairman and its members, and even to dissolve the entire organization.

Sarafraz also pointed out that Ofcom is funded by loans and Grant-in-Aid from the British Government. He further pointed to Ofcom’s “glaring contradiction” in its dealings with Press TV. “Ofcom wants to revoke the broadcast license because it has determined that Press TV Ltd. does not have control over the broadcast. Yet at the same time, Ofcom sentences Press TV Ltd. to pay a financial penalty for the broadcast of something Ofcom says it has no control over! How can you possibly explain your paradoxical performance?” Sarafraz stressed that Ofcom’s bid to revoke Press TV’s license will not prevent the channel from broadcasting the truth about the British Royal regime. “It is futile to attempt to conceal the truth from the people of Britain, and those that want to hear our alternative voice will find a way despite your efforts,” he said.

OFCOM Contact Information

Telephone:

+44300 123 3000
+44300 123 3333
+4420 7981 3040
+4420 7981 3000
+4420 7981 3043 (Text Phone for the hard of hearing)

E-Mail:

graham.howell@ofcom.org.uk

Address:

Ofcom
Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London
SE1 9HA

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