Ofcom switches off Iranian broadcaster

 

Press TV, the English language arm of Iran's state broadcaster, was taken off air yesterday after Ofcom revoked its licence.

The television watchdog said it was forced to act because the Iranian news network was editorially controlled by Tehran but held a licence saying it was based in Britain.

Ofcom had been investigating the news channel over an interview it aired with Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist who was detained by the Iranian authorities during the 2009 presidential election protests. Mr Bahari filed a complaint when he returned to Britain saying the interview was conducted under duress. Ofcom found in his favour and fined Press TV £100,000 which they refused to pay.

During the investigation it emerged that Press TV had the wrong broadcasting licence. Ofcom said that the licence was held by London-based Press TV Ltd but editorial decisions were being made by Press TV International, which is based in Tehran.

Insiders told The Independent that the TV network could have easily complied with regulations by either moving editorial control to Britain or applying for a new licence as a foreign broadcaster. But Ofcom received no replies and decided yesterday to switch the channel off.

Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who presents two shows with Press TV, said it was a "sad day for British journalism". "People have to remember that while Press TV was state funded it was not state controlled," she said. "It has been a thorn in the side of Western nations, particularly Britain and America.".

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