THE BLOG

Press TV Discredits Itself

24/01/2012 11:40 | Updated 25 March 2012

As the internet swarms with reaction to Ofcom's decision to take Press TV off the Sky platform in the UK, the channel is further discrediting itself by ignoring the claims of foul play. Instead of taking the necessary steps to stay on air and protect its employees, Press TV claims this is the end of free speech in Britain.

The reaction came fast from the channel: "It is painful to see that there is zero tolerance for truth and freedom of speech in the UK which has been crowing about human rights and freedom of speech."

To be clear, Ofcom stated it decided to take Press TV off air on 21 January because of the channel's failure to declare that Tehran rather than London was its editorial base when Ofcom granted the licence. The revocation reads: "Under section 362(2) of the Act, the provider of the service for the purposes of holding a licence is the person with general control over which programmes are comprised in the service1." Ofcom gave the channel a grace period to take the necessary steps to correct this irregularity, but it did nothing to help itself, and took no initiative in this regards becoming a hostage of its own bureaucracy.

One host of a weekly programme produced exclusively for Press TV wrote: "And so the war on Iran by Britain, Israel and the US continues using propaganda, proxy militants and asymmetric warfare." Needless to say this host never touches on critical issues inside Iran, nor does he tell his guests the programme is produced exclusively for Press TV.

While many will use this decision as a platform to advocate anti-interventionalist propaganda, the issue of Press TV's paperwork should not become a political one, or connected to the threat of war against the Islamic Republic.

There are regulations in the UK for a reason. Some may not like these regulations, but Britain is a country governed by laws that we, as a freedom loving society, abide by. It's what makes our democracy work and protects our rights to freedom of speech. Flouting the law is something very unBritish and Iran should know better.

So while Press TV and its pundits spin this as an attack against the Islamic Republic, it will only damage the channel further. Such rhetoric will add fuel to the argument that Press TV is a mouthpiece of the regime, when in actual fact Ofom's decision was clearly taken because the paperwork just didn't add up.

The British registered Press TV London hold the licence to broadcast on Sky, yet Press TV London, also say they have no relationship to Tehran editorially - the centre of newsgathering and news output. A spokesman for Press TV London clearly said this on Newsnight to Jeremy Paxman back in 2009. All content whether it be news or programming must be approved by Tehran, this claim is simply not true. While working for the channel I produced programming and news, and all content had to be approved by Tehran, even stories that were aired by London's Eurofocus programme.

So why didn't Press TV Tehran apply for the licence? Or why hasn't Press TV London claimed it has total editorial control, to keep the channel on air. If, it is a strategic soft-power tool by the Iranian regime in Britain, Press TV's first failure has been to secure its position within the British broadcast arena by operating a somewhat irregular and inconsistent business practise that is clearly in conflict with British broadcasting regulations.

While working in Istanbul as a freelance video-journalist Press TV Tehran approached me to research opening a local branch office/bureau in Turkey. This is how the likes of Aljazeera, BBC and CNN operate overseas - all of whom produce registration papers to foreign governing bodies in order to establish a foreign branch, which is overseen editorially by the news centre in its home country.

With Press TV falling under the Islamic of Iranian Broadcasting Corporation (IRIB), the channel doesn't have the correct paperwork to apply for a licence in the UK. Simply as a subsidiary of IRIB it doesn't exist on paper, or at least it didn't in 2011 when I was asked to research opening a Turkey bureau. The idea that Press TV London holds the licence, yet doesn't make decisions editorially for all news content on the channel therefore makes Ofcom's decision valid in the context of abiding by British standards.

Clearly the lesson here to Press TV should be, if you want to broadcast your message on British airways you should learn to play by the rules. This is a failure in understanding the way in which ethical practise works, a shame for the employees of Press TV, who have been let down time and time again by the decisions taken at the top.

So while the frenzy continues over whether this is the end of free speech in Britain, and a political ploy by the British government to silence the regime, Ofcom's decision to revoke the channel's licence is a strong message that if you want to operate in the UK abiding by the law of the land is the first step to success. Whether the law is suitable in this case is not the argument here, the fact that it is not being adhered to clearly is.