'Ofcom will not silence Press TV'
Thu Dec 8, 2011 11:23AM
Interview with former British MP, George Galloway
Britain's communications regulator, Office of Communications (Ofcom) has fined Press TV 100,000 pounds for what it calls breaching its broadcasting rules.
There currently appears to be a requirement that a statement of Ofcom's findings also be broadcast.
Ofcom had previously stated that it would not direct Press TV to broadcast a summary of its findings, but only to pay a fine. The decision comes after earlier Ofcom threats of shutting down broadcasts and previous statements that any financial penalties would be suspended.
Press TV has interviewed former British MP, George Galloway, from London to examine Ofcom's various positions and the reasons that could be behind them.
Following is a transcription of the interview.
Press TV: George Galloway how would you describe Ofcom's refusal to appear on this live talk show to defend their decision?
Galloway: Well, it's a great pity that a publicly funded organization is not prepared to explain to the public and have that explanation questioned by journalists and by critics like me.
The reasoning behind this savage attack on what used to be one of the jewels in the crown of British society, namely our relative freedom of speech compared with many other countries.
It doesn't come as a surprise to me though because I was present at the hearing with Ofcom and I could see - and they could see that I could see - just how flimsy, indeed ridiculous the charge against Press TV actually was.
As you in your package have just shown, the 10-second sound bite included in a news broadcast by Press TV of Mr. Bahari contained words that he went on to repeat exactly in dozens of other interviews both in print and on other media.
The offence of which Press TV was charged was invented by Ofcom. It literally didn't exist before they invented it.
And they changed their own rules to deal with the unfortunate fact that the time period in which complaints can be laid with Ofcom had long expired, when Mr. Bahari for one reason or another was persuaded or persuaded himself to make the complaint.
So I said, at the Ofcom hearing, that it was a big mistake for the Iranians present to imagine that there was any real point in appearing in front of Ofcom because this decision, I believed, had already been made and was made by the very British government, which has been involved in parallel in stepping up the aggression, the hostility, the ostracism of Iran in its overall foreign policy.
In the British way of things, Ofcom is held to be an independent organization but it's actually not independent at all. And all they were doing in this regard was carrying out a dictate from the British Foreign Office which had earlier been revealed, as you said, in the Wikileaks cable and in an interview given by an unnamed senior Foreign Office official with Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times.
And they will not rest until they have tried to take at least Press TV off the Sky platform in Britain.
Even though on that platform, you will find rabid right wing television stations like Fox News, which is controlled from the United States, not from England and we have the most rabid right wing policy propaganda masquerades as news.
You can have a sex channel, indeed, you can have dozens of sex channels on the Sky platform, you can have gay sex channels, you can have interactive sex channels.
But you can't have a small news station that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy. That's the reality of British liberty and freedom nowadays.
Press TV: George Galloway, when we talk about alternative point of view, I mean you have said many times in your program- the voice of the voiceless- but is it really alternative when we look at what Press TV has done.
When we look at the way that news has been highlighted on Press TV, is it a mere fact that certain things are highlighted more in terms of, for example, British foreign policy and its failure?
Or when it comes maybe to the United States due the fact that they have dug so deep and highlighted those more, one thing that has perhaps perturbed the British government and in turn this regulatory body by the name of Ofcom?
Galloway: Yes, I think your other guest is correct in what he implied, namely that if no one was watching us, if no one was paying any attention or being informed and educated by our perspective on the news then they wouldn't be bothering.
But the crescendo of aggression in the media from all the usual sources - just this Sunday in the pro-Iraq war Observer, one of the leaders of the intellectual campaign for the Iraq war, a man called Nick Cohen, a kind of raving, bigoted Zionist was writing an article saying who will rid us of Press TV?
Harry's Place, another Neo-con raving Zionist website was doing the same thing this morning; they wouldn't be bothering if no one was watching.
It's the fact that Press TV's audience has steadily gained and its influence steadily spread in Britain and around the world which has gotten under their skin.
They want, when they pick on a subject or a country to have a punch bag that they can mercilessly beat and which can't fight back. But you see every television station has a perspective, a lens through which it views events.
Does anyone really claim that Fox News, which has an Ofcom license - is controlled from the United States, not a British station at all - does anybody really claim that Fox News does not have its own particular perspective on the news?
What kind of freedom is it, in a free country that allows Fox News owned by Mr. Murdoch, now on trial in front of various fora for all sort of wrong doing - Mr. Murdoch is regarded as a fit and proper person by Ofcom to operate a television station in Britain but Press TV is somehow a target to be silenced.
And that's the reason. Because we're getting under their skin, because more and more people are rejecting the prevailing Orthodoxy spewed out by the other channels and turning more and more to us for the truth and to provide that voice for the otherwise voiceless.
Press TV: George Galloway, I don't know, maybe legally you could tell us how this is going to stand when they - as you mentioned they aired on BBC channel 4 that 10-second sound bite from Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek reporter?
And also Ofcom's actions to remove Press TV off the Sky platform, when they said administrative errors in its application for a license back in 2007, of which then it resulted in a fine.
Does this hold up legally - which it doesn't sound like it should - but then isn't that going to damage the credibility of at least this organization?
Galloway: Well, I think it's terribly damaging to Britain. It's much more damaging to Britain than it is to Iran.
It's Britain after all that goes around the world invading other people's countries in the name of liberty and freedom, included in which is the usual ritual denunciation of the lack of freedom and freedom of expression in the countries that are being targeted by the British.
Yet, here they are exposing themselves as hypocrites. Now I knew they were hypocrites but not everyone in the world knew that they were hypocrites and they are busily proving to everyone that they are hypocrites.
I don't believe that legally it does stand up. It's not my decision of course, I'm merely a presenter of a couple of programs on Press TV. I'm not consulted about its policy or its actions. But if it were up to me, I would apply to the High Court for a judicial review of the bias, the discrimination which is being demonstrated here.
And I believe there would be a high level of possibility of success in such a legal action. It would certainly stop this juggernaut in its tracks for a considerable period of time.
But I think you cannot separate this. You made the points about the royal family. I know nothing about that and I certainly can't vouch for it. What I can vouch for is that the Israel lobby has unremittingly attempted to penalize, criminalize and ultimately silence Press TV in Britain and around the world.
I know that because my programs and donors have been the victims of that and they are the driving force I believe in this, the engine in this, as they are the main engine in the overall attack against Iran, which may have some way to go. So, I think we should stand and fight.
I think the viewers want us to stand and fight, but if in the last analysis we are taken off the Sky platform and we can't share that space with all the sex channels and all the other garbage that spew out of that Sky platform, well people will watch us by other means, on other platforms. They will not close us down. They will not silence Press TV.
Press TV: George Galloway, I should mention, needless to say which you do in your programs, that the comments that you do give is pretty much independent to yourself and those other views that you express.