Originally Published in Iran Oct. 19, 2011 *Updated January 23, 2012
The old colonial Britain unable to tolerate the voice of a relatively young broadcasting outfit, namely Tehran-based Press TV, finally on January 20, 2012, using the state power banned the 24-hour news channel from being heard by the British public. The station criticized Britain's war-mongering policies in the Middle East and North Africa and supported the British public in their demands for jobs and an end to London's insatiable appetite for war, racism and exploitation.
In Britain, unfortunately there are no laws preventing the authorities from "infringing on the freedom of the press." Almost three months to the day, when we in the American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) learned of the British plan to censor Press TV's voice, wrote the following article to that effect. Once again, we ask the progressive community to condemn the British authorities for violating democratic rights and free speech.
OfCom, Britain’s Office of Communication, has threatened to take Press TV, an Iranian English-speaking broadcasting company, off air in the UK. With this move, the British government, using the tool of state media regulators, has declared war on Press TV in the U.K., free communications of news and ideas, and begun a censorship of free speech and political views other than those supporting Britain’s perspective of the mainstream corporate media.
OfCom’s charge against Press TV has been that Press TV, by interviewing Maziar Bahari, a journalist for Newsweek, a U.S. establishment magazine, who was imprisoned in Iran for inciting riots by directly contacting and promoting the leaders of the opposition after the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, violated OfCom’s broadcasting rules. With a goal to censor the Iranian English-speaking media outlet, the British Communication Regulators have opened a new front in the information war. This move is not about winning the hearts and minds of the general public, but out-rightly eliminating competition and a reasonable voice different from that of the British Empire.
In its response to the ban, Press TV exposed the real reasons and motivations behind the act. It stated that: “The British media regulator’s decision is…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 violation of international law and human rights committed by the UK government at home and abroad.”
In a world atmosphere where the American, British, and French international broadcasting systems saturated all the wavelengths with their own particular interpretation of world events, in 2007 the single voice and barely financed Press TV was born. The first few years that the network concentrated mainly on reflecting the voices of anti-war and anti-establishment groups in the U.S. and Britain, the viewers were numerically small relative to the huge corporate media views and did not attract the attention of the corporate media and hence the communication regulators. But in the past year or so, Press TV has been able to go beyond the voice of the most progressive segments of the western societies and has penetrated into homes of the general public, albeit a small fraction of the pie, and challenged the dominant mainstream western media. Reporters are now based in many countries around the world and their investigations and expose’s uncovering and internationalizing issues that were kept hidden or low profile have earned Press TV a newfound respect and audience. In the early stages, the regulators began crying wolf and charged the station with being biased and one-sided, but these allegations could not be proved in fact, and the international audience of Press TV has continued to grow.
Looking into the real reasons behind this animosity of the corporate-controlled media and their defenders, we have only to dig into the background of the OfCom Regulators. A piece appearing recently in the Digital Spy Forum Broadcasting site has revealed the following:
A quick glance at the senior decision makers of OfCom reveals that the regulator is mostly made up of former Channel 4 and BBC executives, some of whom are well-linked to and influenced by powerful pro-Israeli politicians and U.S. sympathizers. Colette Bowe, the 63-year old OfCom chairperson, is reportedly paid 200,000£ a year to coordinate the body’s different committees. Bowe enjoyed the exclusive support of Peter Mandelson, the main economic planner of the Labor Party under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and a Jewish politician with an obvious Zionist mindset. Mille Banerjee, who was reappointed to the Board of OfCom in October 2007 after serving for a five-year term, held a non-executive post in Channel 4 between 2000 and 2002. Tim Gardam, who was appointed to the OfCom Board on January 1, 2008, is a broadcasting sector veteran with a 25-year career that began at the BBC.
An article on appearing on Consortioumnews.com January 23, 2012 by Danny Schechter, an independent filmmaker, TV producer and media critic, had this to say about this attack on Press TV: "Many observers see OFCOM’s decision as more political than administrative, British payback for the recent demonstrations in Tehran at the British Embassy protesting UK policies toward Iran. Iranian police tried to control the activists and protect the Embassy, but did not do a prompt enough job, the UK believes.
There has also been no secret in the past that Press TV is based in Iran, or that Iran pays its bills. Indeed, many governments, including the U.S., fund internationally oriented channels, such as the Voice Of America and the anti-Cuban Radio Marti channel. They are seen in other counties but based in the U.S."
According to British civil rights free speech advocate, Jana Vera Greasley, who believes that OfCom’s decision moves in the direction of censorship and will further erode “democratic rights and free speech,” she has urged viewers in the U.K. and around the world to file a complaint with OfCom’s undemocratic decision, so that Press TV will stay on viewer’s screens who ‘should have the choice to view it or not.’
American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) is in firm agreement with this opinion and is providing OfCom’s website for our supporters to comment: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/
Ardeshir Ommani, President of the American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC), is a writer and political analyst with a background in Political Economy. AIFC was created in 2004 to promote peace and dialogue between the U.S. and Iran, and prevent any NATO instigated war on the Iranian people.