In banning an international news channel from Britain’s airwaves for the first time in history, the government-funded TV regulator has attacked the concept of free speech, denied British viewers access to an alternative voice, and further damaged the UK’s relationship with Iran.
Of course, Ofcom will say that this has nothing to do with politics. It will cite an unpaid fine of GBP 100,000 and an administrative irregularity in Press TV’s license contract. But that’s absolute nonsense, and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, there is no doubt whatsoever that the British authorities and establishment have always regarded Press TV as a thorn in their side and have wanted it shut down.
US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks have revealed that the British Foreign Office told the US embassy in London in 2010 that it was “exploring ways to limit the operations of… Press TV.”
According to WikiLeaks, the authorities reconsidered their decision in the face of legal obstacles at the time, but continued to look at other ways of advancing their agenda.
Secondly, Britain has imposed sanctions on Iran, making it virtually impossible for anyone dealing with the country to operate in the UK. These sanctions have included pressuring British banks not to deal with Press TV’s partners.
Thirdly, we know from Press TV insiders that government officials have been enforcing a boycott against them for several years now, denying the channel interviews, while, at the same time, according those rights to every other international news channel.
And fourthly, the right-wing as well as the supposedly liberal media have led a vicious campaign against Press TV, hiding behind the mask of human rights champions to get the channel off air.
But, of course, the British authorities will argue that this has nothing to do with the fact that Britain views Iran as an archenemy, and has been spearheading the economic sanctions campaign against Iran with a view to toppling its government or even attacking it militarily. Or, nothing to do with Press TV’s editorial content, which has exposed Britain’s bloody role in the Middle East, its history of supporting terrorist Israeli and Arab dictators, as well as its brutal and exploitative domestic policies.
All issues that the mainstream or corporate media gloss over.
So, now that we’ve established that the establishment hates Press TV, let’s look at how they went about taking the channel off the air.
For several years now, Ofcom, which is run by a close associate of the warmonger Tony Blair, has been harassing Press TV, especially over its coverage of Israel/Palestine.
Then, last year, it upheld a complaint by a notoriously anti-Islamic Republic journalist called Maziar Bahari, who claimed Press TV had interviewed him under duress in an Iranian prison — accusations the Iranian authorities deny.
Ofcom, of course, took Bahari’s word for it, even though he clearly has an anti-Iran agenda and is prone to hanging out with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and visiting Israel. So, they hit Press TV with a record GBP 100,000 fine just for airing a 10-second-long clip of Bahari saying something completely innocuous.
At around the same time, Ofcom suddenly found an “administrative” error in Press TV’s license application in 2007. The error pertained to editorial control of the channel, which is obviously in Tehran and not London. This ‘shocking revelation’ was enough for Ofcom to write to Press TV indicating that it was “minded to revoke its license”.
Frankly, you couldn’t make it up. First of all, surely this administrative error could have been easily cleared up and, secondly, all the other foreign 24-hour news channels in the UK operate on the same model. So, using Ofcom’s logic, Aljazeera, France 24, Russia Today, and CCTV should also be shut down. But guess what? They’re all funded by friendly nations or ones, who are too big to bully.
In short, Ofcom’s treatment of Press TV — harassing it over its coverage, imposing astronomical fines, and sending threatening letters — indicates that it always intended to shut the channel down. No matter what Press TV did, it was only a matter of time before it got the chop.
So, the irony is that, while Ofcom considers gay sex and porn channels fit and proper material to appear on the Sky platform, it can’t stomach Press TV.
Finally, let’s turn to the dire consequences of Ofcom’s actions.
The immediate effect will be to further heighten tensions between Britain and Iran, which are already at an all-time low. Iran will view this as the latest hostile act by the British state and will most probably retaliate in kind, making it impossible for the British media to cover the Islamic Republic.
It will also add to the atmosphere of distrust between the two countries at a time when dialogue is needed to defuse a potentially calamitous situation.
Furthermore, the foreign media in the UK may also start self-censoring, curbing their coverage of British affairs out of fear that the authorities will shut them down too if they cross too many red lines.
But the greatest damage hangs over Britain’s reputation itself. A nation, which endlessly preaches to the rest of the world about human rights, democracy and freedom of speech has just denied those rights to a foreign TV station and the hundreds of thousands of (if not more) people, who watch it in the UK.