OfCom decision on Press TV scandalous
Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:31PM
Interview with Chris Bambery, political analyst
Britain's Office of Communications, known as OfCom, has decided to take Press TV off air in the UK, citing administrative problems in Press TV's application as the reason.
The British media regulator's decision is considered to be an abuse of the UK media law and the result of mounting pressure on the organization by certain members of the royal family and government.
As an alternative international media outlet, Press TV took pains to break the mainstream media's total silence on the violations of international law and human rights committed by the UK government at home and abroad.
Press TV interviews Chris Bambery, a political analyst in London, to discuss the motives behind this move.
What follows is the text of the interview:
Press TV: Why do you think Press TV is being taken off air in the UK?
Bambery: Press TV is an alternative voice and I think it is becoming increasing popular with people in Britain who want to get a different angle on the news as put [forth] by BBC and others. I think it wants a wide coverage and its coverage of students protests last autumn, with the riots and unrest we saw in August. I think it is obviously clear that all those people who oppose the majority of the population who oppose the war in Afghanistan and indeed oppose the war in Iraq.
So I think it has won an audience, it is growing in popularity; it provides news analysis which is not there on BBC and I think that is why. I think what has to be said is that it is taking four years for Ofcom to find their administrative problem that does seem to me to be an excuse. [I have to add that] personally I have appeared on Press TV many times, I have never been asked to alter my opinion or to say something which is contrary to my views. I have always been allowed to say what I have to say without any interference, whether or not it is in accordance with the views of the government of Iran, it doesn't matter and I have had no interference.
To me Press TV has a much wider range of debate than it is available on BBC, with views of people who support their Republican Party in the United States, who support free market policies in this country. I have debated with those people and I think Press TV has done an startling job here and that is precisely why, I believe, it is being taken off because as the reporter just said, we know there has been pressure from a number of lobbies in this country, from the Foreign Office and inside the BBC to take Press TV off the air.
I think it is a scandal, I think it is an insult to free speech in this country and I think it is something that should be opposed by all the people who... champion free speech and by whole trade union and actually union journalists take up this case and demand that Press TV is brought back on air.
Press TV: Where does this leave Britain's claims of protecting free speech?
Bambery: I think they are using a pretext, which is an administrative pretext, they are claiming that their... and that is going to seem to me that .... why it has taken four years to... and it is trying to say that it has breached broadcasting regulations and standards, they were never able to pin that on Press TV, so now they are looking for subterfuge to get Press TV off the air by quoting supposed administrative problems. I think that should be challenged, I hope Press TV will challenge that decision by legal means .... I think it has also be taken up by members of parliament and other people in this country as an attack at free speech, an attempt to take alternative voices off the air waves. For instance, Press TV was one of the few outlets which allowed black people in this country to speak openly about the riots and unrest and so on in August. That was a different view from a group of people who had often had no voice in this society, Press TV gave them that voice and Press TV should be praised for that.
Press TV: How dangerous is this trend in general, if there is a station or newspaper, magazine that tries to show an alternative perspective that they can be censored or actually in Press TV's case even being taken off the air?
Bambery: I think it is worrying that it is happening. As I said, I think it should be done by subterfuge, by quoting administrative problem; if it was an administrative problem why it was not sorted out four years ago? Why not just sort it out than take the station off the air? I think it is an example and there is a history in Britain of people being taken off the air. If you remember Sinn Fein, now in government in Northern Ireland, but Sinn Fein for over ten years was not allowed access directly to the news media, their words were actually read out by an actor. Therefore, we have seen censorship in different points in time in this country; free speech is something that people fought for in this country, they went to prison for it and I think we should make sure that people across Britain and across the globe [see this] as an attack on the rights for free speech.