Media: No death, please, we're British

Global TV and radio broadcasting from the UK is becoming ever harder to police. By Ed Shelton

SENSITIVE SCHEDULING it was not. Sunday evening family viewing time may not have been the best choice to broadcast the stoning to death of two Iranian police officers.

It was certainly effective. Two Iranians accused of adultery were shown being bound from head to toe in linen like Egyptian mummies, and then wedged in holes in the ground so that their torsos made rigid targets for the stone-throwers. A large crowd was then seen surrounding them and hurling stones that were specially chosen not to be too large to kill outright.

"We only showed a little bit and we warned viewers before that it was coming," says PTV's director, Mahmood Taghi Sarabi.

The broadcast led to complaints and, two weeks ago the Independent Television Commission upheld them. Guy Phelps, senior programme officer at the ITC, said the programme was "disturbing", "too violent" for the time of day, and "too extended in its treatment of the punishments".

The clash highlights the difficulty the ITC faces as it attempts regulation of the dozens of non-English-language channels based in this country. With digital transmission about to flood the airwaves, it is a problem that will get worse.

Phelps, who has a team of four, says the ITC is already responsible for more hours of satellite and cable TV than officers could ever watch.

"In this day and age, we could not watch all the channels without a massive army of people doing it - there will be more channels when digital comes. The key is to be in touch with the companies and to be reasonably confident that they understand the codes. The onus is on them to comply," he says.

The ITC must monitor the 41 UK-based foreign-language channels regularly, employing two translators (one for checking) each time it reviews a broadcaster.

The ITC works by investigating viewers' complaints and random testing of potentially contentious channels, but more channels will mean that such testing inevitably becomes less frequent, and transgressions like PTV's could go unpunished.

In future, Sarabi has said he would respect the 9pm watershed, but PTV was not just upbraided on its scheduling - it also breached the ITC programme code which states that footage of people being killed or dying requires exceptional justification.

The ITC will not tolerate exceptions at any time, and says that if the channel repeats the offence it could face a fine or even lose its licence.

The Radio Authority is in a similar position and is this year launching a special initiative to combat the problem. Asian, Greek and Turkish stations are among those that must be monitored, and the Authority is now putting extra money behind its efforts.

Janet Lee, deputy-head of programming and advertising at the RA, says: "London attracts a lot of people who are fleeing from conflicts in their homeland. They are here because they are outlawed back home, and they want to discuss the situation back home on the radio. We have identified it as something we want to spend time monitoring this year, and to put aside a budget for doing so."

For local radio, the issue is further complicated in that news broadcasts must be impartial in the same way as TV broadcasts, but general items must only meet the lesser requirement of not giving "undue prominence" to a particular view. For example, Cyprus could be discussed on London Greek Radio from the Greek point of view, but a news story would have to be balanced. "It is a difficult one to police," admits Lee.

Many of the complaints the RA receives relate to Spectrum Radio - a local London station that broadcasts to a total of eight ethnic groups. Spectrum has been fined five times in the last four years. The RA is currently looking into complaints that the station broadcast material that was "anti- Western" in its Arab broadcasting, and is seeking assurance that the material, which accused the West of collusion with Israel, was balanced with opposing views.

Hilmet Tabak, the managing director of Med TV, the Kurdish channel, is aware of the difficulty of the regulators' task. "At the beginning, it was very difficult for the ITC to monitor us because they were not familiar with Kurdish background and culture. Now they understand who we are and why we must broadcast politics as well as music and dancing," he says.

Med TV broadcasts to Kurds, most of whom live in Turkey. As the Kurdish language is banned in Turkey, the channel is not allowed there and diplomatic pressures have been applied to get the channel off the air here. The difficulty is that London is an international centre for broadcasting, in part because the UK has more relaxed regulations than other countries.

The flip side is that some channels available here are licensed overseas, as they would not be acceptable to the ITC. In the past, cable channels for Spaniards living here have shown bullfights, for example.

Generally, the foreign channels in the UK say that they respect the ITC's efforts. "If there were a regulator as honourable as the ITC in Turkey, all the Turkish television channels would be closed down immediately," says Tabak.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor