Galloway, Corbyn rapped by Ofcom for Press TV Israel programme

By Jennifer Lipman, November 22, 2010
Jeremy Corbyn MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Ofcom has ruled that George Galloway repeatedly breached broadcasting standards on impartiality during a series of Press TV programmes on which he described Israel as “a terrorist gangster state” and a “miscreant, law breaking rogue, war launching, occupying state.”

The media watchdog also found that Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn did not show due impartiality when he appeared on the Iranian-backed channel as a guest on Mr Galloway’s weekly Comment show.

An initial complaint against the former Respect MP and pro-Palestinian campaigner was made last February following a segment on the death of a Hamas operative in a Dubai hotel.

An Ofcom investigation found that the piece was in breach of standards for “inequitably representing alternative viewpoints”.

The regulator also found examples of breaches of impartiality in other episodes of Comment in May and June 2010, involving comments “which could be interpreted as being pro-Palestinian and highly critical of the actions of the Israeli government and its military forces.”

In one instance Mr Galloway referred to Israel as a lunatic state. He also said: “If I was running Iran I would build a bomb because Israel is aiming hundreds of nuclear weapons at me.”

After the clash on the Gaza-bound flotilla Mr Galloway said on his show: “Israel went into International waters to give a message to Iran and Turkey they can do whatever they want because of US support”.

Mr Corbyn, who earlier this month met two representatives of Hamas in Jerusalem, said: “Israel has been referred to the Security Council on so many occasions so it is time surely for serious economic sanctions.”

Under Section 5 of the Ofcom code, broadcasters must ensure that on such programmes “neither side of the debate is unduly favoured.”

However the report said Mr Galloway’s show did not adequately provide the Israeli viewpoint on the flotilla incident. Investigators found that when opposing views were included the material was used only “to give the opportunity for the programme to further criticise the Israeli government.”

In addition, it was demonstrated that Mr Galloway treated pro-Israel viewer contributions, in a very different way to how he treated the pro-Palestinian perspective.

“[He] used the alternative opinions made by the viewers, which were contrary to his own, only as vehicles to punctuate what could be classed as a form of ongoing political polemic, delivered by the presenter directly to camera and unchallenged.”

Ofcom said it would arrange a meeting for Press TV to discuss its impartiality procedure.

Last updated: 9:29am, November 24 2010