Journalist, Producer & Researcher

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

There is nothing British about banning Press TV

Ofcom’s decision to revoke Press TV’s license is un-British and demoralises freedom of speech

 For the first time in television history, Britain's Office of Communications (OFCOM) has banned a news channel from broadcasting in Britain. 

Press TV is an Iranian state broadcaster’s English language outlet which has been taken off its Sky platform in the United Kingdom after OFCOM revoked its licence for breaching broadcasting rules. 

The official reason behind the decision made by Ed Richard, the current Controller of Corporate Strategy at the BBC and the head of OFCOM was that Press TV's editorial team was based overseas and as a result, the news channel should not be allowed to broadcast to the British Public.  

Other international media outlets such as the London offices of CNN International, Bloomberg and Al Jazeera are probably puzzled at this decision as all of them have their editorial teams located outside the United Kingdom: in Atlanta, New York and Doha. 

Double standards when it comes to the News  

The question remains as to why Press TV and no other news platforms?  Is it because its headquarters are located in Iran? Or because it offers an alternative point of view unique from all other British mainstream media outlets?

What is clear is that there is more to this ban than just breaching a broadcasting rule.  

Press TV has been known for its unique point of view, reporting on events and exposing developments not often portrayed by mainstream media outlets. The channel has provided extensive and transparent coverage of the role of the British government in Iraq and Afghanistan, reporting on the other side of the war and its effects on the Iraqi and Afghani civilians. 

Cables released by Wikileaks divulged that the US government has been pressuring the British government to close the London office of Press TV because its views did not agree with western governments. 

According to Press TV journalist Yvonne Ridley, OFCOM did not attempt to contact PRESS TV offices in Tehran to obtain confirmation of its editorial policy and neither has OFCOM bothered to respond to representatives of Press TV in London for a dialogue to begin to discuss editorial regulations.  Ridley also emphasised that despite critics who claim Press TV is a mouthpiece for the Iranian government, the channel is state funded and not state controlled. 

War with Iran
UK laws and regulations set a very high standard for denying licenses to broadcasters.   Afshin Rattansi , points out that licenses can only be denied in cases where national security is threatened, or if granting a license would be contrary to Britain's obligations under international law. Currently, neither of these standards can be met with respect to PRESS TV.
Some critics have argued that the ban pressured by the US government is one step closer to gathering support from the West to invade Iran.

I am not a fan of Press TV. There would be the occasional article that I would read if I happen to see it on my Facebook newsfeed. However, I would still like the option of switching through channels and watching different viewpoints whether I agree with them or not. That is supposed to be the beauty of freedom of the press. 

For the British government to ban a news channel because of its alternate point of view is against British values. Forbes points out that the state has in this instance interfered with the freedom of the press, as the decision to continue to allow Press TV to broadcast was not taken by Sky, but by a UK regulatory agency.

David Cameron preaches democracy and freedom of speech as adherents to British culture. If the government insists on banning a news channel, how different is the British government to those regimes which denies freedom of speech?
Published by Suite101

Copyright Reyhana Patel. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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