OFCOM accused of being biased toward Press TV
Wed May 25, 2011 10:9PM
Hassan Ghani, Press TV, London
The UK's broadcasters, apart from Britain's state funded broadcaster the BBC, are all regulated by the country's media watchdog, OFCOM. Channels are regularly censured by the body for failings in their coverage, but on the occasions when it's ruled against PressTV, the channel has received a hugely disproportionate amount of attention in the British press.
Most recently, and after an investigation spanning a year and a half, OFCOM ruled that PressTV's airing of a ten second extract from an interview with newsweek journalist Mazar Bahari, while he was being held in an Iranian jail, breached its rules. The purpose of the report was to clarify details surrounding an attack on a military base in Tehran using footage filmed by Bahari, which had been edited and misreported by the western media.
PressTV insiders have accused UK regulator OFCOM of acting as a vessel for UK government policy, and claim the government has been using Bahari's case for political ends, although OFCOM maintains it is an independent authority.
More generally, PressTV's coverage on a number of issues has angered government officials, and one unnamed senior UK diplomat has been quoted in a UK newspaper stating that he'd like to see the channel shut down.
But PressTV has also been singled out for its challenging and critical coverage of the UK's royal family.
The network has also provided extensive coverage of the student protests in the UK and provided a voice to the hundreds of thousands marching again the government's public spending cuts.
And there are growing indications that the British government is attempting to shut down the channel's London operation through the backdoor. Any overt silencing would run against the UK's apparent respect for free speech.
Wikileaks revelations appear to confirm that UK officials have been discussing ways of restricting the channel's UK operations.
Of course when the channel is vindicated by OFCOM, such as its ruling that PressTV's coverage of the Iranian elections didn't breach rules on impartiality, it receives little coverage.
And in a world where the battle for hearts and minds is increasingly fought over the airwaves, PressTV will continue to ruffle feathers within the UK establishment with its alternative viewpoint and growing viewership.