Britain Bans Press TV


For the first time, British government censors have banned a 24-hour news channel from British viewers. As of the afternoon, UK-time, 20th January 2012, viewers of Press TV, an avowedly anti-imperialist TV channel headquartered in Tehran and featuring many of the voices found in CounterPunch, saw the words “Channel Unavailable” when tapping their clicker. And so the war on Iran by Britain, Israel and the U.S. continues using propaganda, proxy militants and asymmetric warfare.

Unlike the U.S., whose authorities have so often had to get around the first amendment to ban media from Americans, the UK has no law against the abridging of freedom of speech or against “infringing on the freedom of the press”. The decision was made by Ed Richards, previously Senior Policy Advisor to Tony Blair and a Controller of Corporate Strategy at the BBC. He now runs OFCOM, a regulatory agency charged with judging what news Britons are able to view.

One of the broadcast regulator’s central arguments about Press TV is that it is not convinced that editorial control is based in Britain. I’ve worked for numerous foreign channels that are allowed to broadcast in the UK, so I know this discrepancy will come as a surprise to my former employers at the London offices of CNN International, Bloomberg and Al Jazeera, all of which ultimately answer, editorially, to bosses in Atlanta, New York and Doha.

Press TV Ltd., a UK-based production company making programmes for Press TV has also been fined $155,000. This was because the channel in Tehran, broadcast an interview with Maziar Bahari of Newsweek whilst he was in prison. Bahari, who I have appeared with on discussion panels about the situation in Iran, is on the record as saying he wants Press TV banned and, basically, war on Iran. His views on banning TV stations are shared by the British government. We know this thanks to Wikileaks which released a secret cable from 2010 detailing the views of Jaime (sic) Turner, “Deputy Head of Multi-lateral affairs at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office”:

Her Majesty’s Government is looking at other ways to address the issue. Her Majesty’s Government is exploring ways to limit the operations of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s PRESS TV service..However, UK law sets a very high standard for denying licenses to broadcasters. Licenses can only be denied in cases where national security is threatened, or if granting a license would be contrary to Britain’s obligations under international law. Currently, neither of these standards can be met with respect to PRESS TV, but if further sanctions are imposed on Iran in the coming months, a case may be able to be made on the second criterion.

While it is obviously a badge of honour for journalists to provoke such paranoia in a government – how is Press TV threatening UK national security?! – the cable also revealed Britain to be begging for U.S. intervention vis a vis France:

5. (S) In the immediate term, Her Majesty’s Government plans to lobby the French government to approach Eutelsat and press it to drop Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s broadcasts from the Hotbird satellite. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting broadcasts several channels from the satellite, both domestically (even most terrestrial TV channels in Iran are dependent on a satellite and repeaters) and internationally, so it is an important source of income for Eutelsat. While it would be unlikely for the company to agree to drop the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting broadcasts spontaneously, Turner believes it would be susceptible to an approach by the French government because of the cover it would gain from complying with an official government request. Her Majesty’s Government would appreciate U.S. Government engagement with the government of France on this issue.

Nothing happened as regards London lobbying Paris to push the channel off the Eutelsat satellite but over here, I have witnessed bizarre examples of British journalists wishing to crush press freedom. Only in the past week, the UK Sunday Times’ Eleanor Mills wrote that Press TV “..has been fined £100,000…by the TV regulator OFCOM; many may think a more fitting punishment would see the station taken off air.” Such is the insouciant hackery of some British journalists when it comes to issues of free speech.

Those who have watched Press TV (it is, of course, available on the internet let alone nearly twenty free-to-air satellites) will know that its coverage of international events does not conform to the neoliberal news and current affairs brainwashing paradigm in mainstream newsrooms. It is one of the only TV stations in the world that genuinely gives international news, on a daily basis, covering all continents.

As CounterPunch readers know, there is already a war on Iran and this British decision is another front. Let’s hope that at least some of OFCOM’s board – you know who you are, Colette Bowe, Lord Blackwell, Dame Lynne Brindley, Tim Gardam, Dame Patricia Hodgson, Stuart McIntosh, Mike McTighe and Jill Ainscough – will realise that the purpose of the regulator was not to infringe on press freedom. In the meantime, still legal channels such as Russia Today are so far tolerated and give British viewers a view of the world different to the sanitised Orwellian fictions available on terrestrial television in the United Kingdom. And soon, as British viewers continue to switch off their television sets and boot up their computers, UK governments may realise that it is powerless to ban information getting to the masses.

Afshin Rattansi runs Alternate Reality Productions Ltd. One of its commissions is Double Standards, a political satire show for Press TV, broadcast every Saturday at 2230 GMT. Shows can be accessed via www.doublestandardstv.com. He can be reached via afshinrattansi@hotmail.com.

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon