Ofcom rebuke for Galloway's Press TV show

George Galloway’s two shows on the Iranian government funded news channel, Press TV, have been criticised by Ofcom for breaching impartiality rules after the Respect MP branded Israel’s actions in the Gaza conflict “war crimes”.

During the Gaza conflict, in January this year, the broadcasting regulator received complaints from viewers that Galloway’s programmes were biased against Israel and that Galloway did not conduct a balanced discussion.

There were four complaints over three programmes, two editions of Comment broadcast on 8 and 15 January and The Real Deal, broadcast on 18 January.

Ofcom said it also had concerns about a fourth programme, an edition of Comment broadcast on 23 January 2009.

During the three editions of Comment, Ofcom said Galloway answered telephone calls live and he read out and commented on emails and SMS texts received from viewers.

Ofcom said: “It should be noted that where a matter of major political controversy is being discussed…the broadcaster must ensure that an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in each programme or in clearly linked and timely programmes.

“This is especially important where a presenter is known to have strongly held views on the subject being discussed in the programme and clearly makes his position clear throughout the programme.”

The regulator said the three editions of Comment were overwhelmingly from a pro-Palestinian point of view and were highly critical of Israeli policy.

Ofcom said: “The presenter spoke from an entirely pro-Palestinian point of view. There was not one telephone call from a pro-Israeli position in any of the programmes and only the most limited and short text or email messages from viewers from a pro-Israeli position.”

The regulator said Galloway variously labelled Israel as committing “murder”, “apartheid-style occupation” and “war crimes”.

In the episode of The Real Deal, Galloway made references to Gaza being a “killing zone” and to the “ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people”. He ended the edition by dedicating the programme to the “brave men, women and children of Palestine”, adding: “You will overcome, I believe that.”

Press TV maintained that all the programmes complied with the rules on impartiality saying there were “sufficient” alternative views within each show.

Ofcom said examples of contributions that could be labelled as being broadly supportive of the actions of the Israeli state in Gaza were “extremely limited”.

It also ruled Press TV breached the broadcasting code on the grounds of impartiality and giving “due weight” to a range of views from an Israeli perspective.

Ofcom said: “There was not an appropriately wide range of significant views included and that the views that were included that were contrary to the opinion of the presenter, were not given due weight.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict understandably raises extremely strong views and emotions from all sides.

“It is right that broadcasters are able to reflect such opinions within its programmes. There must be a place for such programming which gives air to highly opinionated and vocal reaction on issues of such importance.

“However, in order to comply with the code, broadcasters must ensure that, when discussing matters of major political or industrial controversy or a major matter relating to current public policy, a real range of significant views are included in a programme.

“Further, in such cases, when presenting any significant alternative view, it must be given due weight and consideration.”

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