Ofcom could hit Talkradio with a “statutory sanction” after it found that George Galloway broke broadcast impartiality rules in two shows about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The broadcast regulator said the former MP made “serious breaches” of its impartiality rules during his Talkradio programme on the 27 July and 6 August last year. This is Galloway’s second Ofcom breach this year.
He defended Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during the shows, described the suggestion that Corbyn hated Jews as a “Goebbellian lie” and dismissed one anonymous viewer who disagreed with him as an “ignorant moron” and “gutless coward”.
Talkradio accepted that the shows broke impartiality rules and said Galloway had “crossed the line” on those occasions.
Galloway took a different view on the rulings. He told the regulator it should be “investigated for this quite scandalous waste of public money purchased by a single complainant” and claimed Ofcom “toe the Israel-lobby line”.
He also accused the regulator of being “deeply prejudiced” against the Palestinian people and attempting to silence the “only presenter on British radio and television” prepared to defend Corbyn.
In a statement on its rulings, an Ofcom spokesperson said: “Our investigation found that these phone-in programmes breached our due impartiality rules.
“They failed to give due weight to a sufficiently wide range of views on allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.
“We are minded to consider imposing a statutory sanction for these breaches. The licensee now has an opportunity to make representations to us, which we’ll consider before proceeding further.”
The regulator’s ruling said: “We remain concerned that despite the licensee accepting that this programme was in breach of the [broadcasting code] and introducing ‘enhancements to ensure compliance’, the presenter of the programme continued to express his pride about the content of the programme which may indicate an ongoing misunderstanding of the due impartiality requirements of the code.”
Statutory sanctions that can be taken against broadcast programmes include being told not to repeat a show, having to read out a statement on Ofcom findings and financial penalties. In extreme cases a broadcaster’s license can be revoked.
A Talkradio spokesperson said: “You expect robust opinions from George Galloway but we accept that on this occasion he crossed the line. As a station we understand the need for dissenting voices with a range of counter opinions.”
Press Gazette has approached Galloway’s agent for further comment, but has not yet received a response.
Ofcom received one complaint for each of the Galloway shows it investigated, both raising concerns about a lack of contest to his views.
In both cases Talkradio said its “distinctiveness” partly came from the “personality and opinion-led approach” of its programming, but conceded that both Galloway shows breached impartiality rules.
The station, which is owned by Wireless Group, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, added that it had commissioned a report by a barrister to look at causes of “apparent shortcomings” with Galloway’s show and compliance with impartiality rules.
Talkradio also claims to have put “additional production support” in place to make sure show complies with the Ofcom broadcasting code.
Earlier this year, Ofcom ruled that Galloway had breached impartiality rules during a show aired last March in which he attacked views that Russia was involved in the Skripal poisonings.
Read the full Ofcom rulings.
Picture: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett