Iran’s Press TV loses UK licence
Ofcom revokes English-language channel’s licence for breaching the Communications Act
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.
Galloway, who infamously performed as a cat on Celebrity Big Brother, tweeted: “Champions of liberty the British govt have now taken Press TV off Sky. “Follow us at www.presstv.ir and other platforms.”
Other regular contributors include Yvonne Ridley, the former Sunday Express journalist kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, who subsequently converted to Islam.
Former Press TV presenters include Ken Livingstone, the Labour London mayoral candidate, and Lauren Booth, sister of Cherie Blair.
The Press TV newsroom director, Hamid Emadi, said the channel had been taken off air in the UK for “for airing a 10-second news clip” of Bahari.
“He claims he has been interviewed under duress. Press TV has strongly rejected that,” Emadi added.
“Press TV believes that Ofcom is the media tool of the British government – the same government that sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in the killing of innocent civilians.
WikiLeaks cables say London and Washington have explored ways to limit the operations of Press TV in the UK. And here it comes; Press TV is removed from the Sky platform.”
He added that Press TV is examining ways of continuing to broadcast into the UK.
“The British government and Ofcom will not be able to silence Press TV’s voice in the UK. We will exhaust all possibilities and will try to stay in the UK as an active media player and an alternative voice,” Emadi said.