x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Iran's Press TV blames British royals for loss of licence

Britain's independent media watchdog revoked Press TV's licence for breaking licensing rules and failing to pay a £100,000 fine for broadcasting an interview with a prisoner obtained under duress.

Press TV, viewed as Iran's propaganda mouthpiece in the West, hit back furiously yesterday after it was banished from British television screens. Bizarrely, it placed the blame mainly on Britain's royal family.

The London-based satellite news channel accused Britain of censorship and flouting freedom of speech, ignoring Iran's restrictions on its own media and its jamming of the BBC's Persian service and Voice of America.

Ofcom, Britain's independent media watchdog, revoked Press TV's licence on Friday for breaking licensing rules and failing to pay a record £100,000 (Dh572,000) fine for broadcasting an interview with a prisoner obtained under duress.

But the 24-hour Iranian channel, launched in 2007 to break the West's "stranglehold" over the world's media, detected far murkier, politically motivated reasons for its muzzling.

Press TV argued it had incurred Britain's wrath with its critical coverage of the riots in British cities and its exposure of the "extravagant costs of Britain's royal wedding at a time of great financial difficulty for ordinary Britons".

The station's British hosts were also supposedly rankled by its "extensive and transparent coverage of the role the British government played in the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan".

Betraying a curious fixation with Britain's royals, Press TV vowed the loss of its licence would not stop it from broadcasting the truth "about the British royal regime", which it said controls Ofcom.

Ofcom and the Foreign Office on Friday denied any government involvement in the station losing its licence.

Even so, just months after mobs stormed Britain's embassy in Iran, the ruling will escalate tensions between London and Tehran.

Tomorrow, the European Union, with Britain in the lead, is set to impose its toughest sanctions yet against Iran, including an oil embargo.

Ofcom's ruling stemmed from a complaint filed by Maziar Bahari, a London-based Newsweek journalist, that Press TV aired a false confession when he was jailed in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

He was accused of helping to stage huge demonstrations that followed Iran's 2009 disputed presidential election.

The Press TV broadcast failed to say Mr Bahari had been threatened with execution unless he made a televised statement. Ofcom said it emerged during the investigation into his case that the Iranian channel was being editorially controlled by Tehran but had a licence saying it was based in Britain.

Ofcom in November offered Press TVa choice of two remedies. The first was to switch editorial control to its London offices, the second to transfer its broadcasting licence to Iran. The station failed to respond or implement either option, Ofcom said.

 

mtheodoulou@thenational.ae