Press TV anti-Israel bias slammed by Ofcom

By Jessica Elgot, August 3, 2009
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George Galloway: presented programmes that were criticised by Ofcom

George Galloway: presented programmes that were criticised by Ofcom

Press TV, the English-language Iranian broadcaster, has breached the Communications Act 2003 because of the anti-Israeli bias present in two programmes presented by the MP George Galloway, Ofcom has announced.

Ofcom has investigated four programmes broadcast during the Gaza offensive in January, Comment and The Real Deal both presented by the British Respect MP Mr Galloway.

During the three broadcasts of Comment in January, presented by Mr Galloway, which were investigated by Ofcom following complaints, the MP accused Israel of "committing war crimes", "murdering United Nations employees" an "apartheid-style occupation" and "slaughtering women and children by the hundreds in just two weeks."

Other statements by Mr Galloway pinpointed by Ofcom included "collectively punishing people is a Nazi tactic" and his claim that "we're discovering war crimes and the mass graves of Palestine".

He also begged viewers not to "fall for any Israeli propagnada".

Press TV responded to Ofcom by claiming that the programme was a discussion show, where the personal views of the presenter are of "paramount importance" and where air time was allocated for any views, from either side.

Press TV stated that George Galloway was expressing his opinion and "many people agreed with him".

The broadcaster said: "We allow people to contribute to the show who believe that Israel has not committed a war crime. However, the number of people who believe the latter is only a small percentage, and therefore
the contributions to the show reflect that."

In the episode of The Real Deal, which was also investigated by the regulator, presented by Mr Galloway and featuring the Palestinian author Ahmed Masoud and US reporter Jeff Steinberg, Press TV said the perceived bias was because "it would have been insensitive for George Galloway to tackle the Israeli line against his guest [Mr Masoud]"

In the episode, Mr Galloway referred to the Gaza conflict as "ethnic cleansing" and said: "[Israeli] spokesmen and women, with their Australian, South African, and New York accents, try to convince the world that mass murder is in fact no more than a humane cleaning up operation. It is as if it has been scripted by Lewis Carroll”.

Press TV stated that Mr Steinberg had been invited to give the Israeli perspective, but Ofcom stated that they considered "both guests had been putting forward viewpoints critical of the Israeli government's policy in Gaza".

In its conclusion, the Ofcom report stated: "There were no views included in the programmes which could be considered being pro-Israeli; and, Press TV was unable to point Ofcom to any other clearly-linked or timely
programmes which contained an “appropriately wide range of significant views” including views which were supportive of Israeli policy.

"Therefore, Ofcom considered that the viewpoint of the Israeli state was not adequately represented. In this way, viewers were not adequately furnished with opinions as to how the situation in Gaza during January 2009, and its lead up, was perceived from the viewpoint of an official Israeli position."

Read the full report here.

Last updated: 4:20pm, August 3 2009