George Galloway broke impartiality rules while discussing the Salisbury poisonings on his radio show last March, according to the media regulator Ofcom.
After the show aired, the watchdog investigated a complaint that the programme contained “biased and unbalanced views” about the response of the UK and Russian governments to the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal.
After investigating the claim, Ofcom found that a high number of comments from Galloway and his listeners were highly critical of the government, while the small number of opposing views were treated dismissively.
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Galloway’s radio station, Talkradio, which is owned by News UK, is now in line for “statutory sanction by Ofcom”, reports The Daily Telegraph. The broadcasting regulator has the power to order an on-air apology and impose a fine.
On the show, broadcast 12 days after the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, last March, Galloway “repeatedly poured scorn on the British government’s claims of Russian involvement in the attempted murder and pointed out that Salisbury was close to the UK’s chemical research laboratory at Porton Down”, says The Guardian.
Galloway suggested there was no reason for Russia to have carried out the attack: “I’m not saying the Russian intelligence services are above such a crime,” he told listeners. “They have committed many such crimes, just like every other intelligence agency in the world, including – and perhaps particularly – our own. Don’t get me started on intelligence services. The question is, why?”
When, on three occasions, listeners disagreed with his view, Galloway joked that they had sent their messages from Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, reports the BBC.
In its ruling, Ofcom said that talkSPORT, which holds the licence for talkRADIO, “failed to include and give due weight to an appropriately wide range of significant viewpoints in relation to the relevant matters of major political controversy and major matters relating to current public policy dealt with in the programme”.
Following the ruling, Talksport said the presenter’s “controversial views” would not come as a surprise to listeners.
It said steps had now been taken to ensure that “differing views are expressed on air”, including the producer “speaking to Galloway of the need for dissenting voices to be heard, something which Galloway has always welcomed and encouraged”.
But the former MP, whose three-hour show is broadcast every Friday at 7pm, described Ofcom’s investigation as a “transparently politically motivated attempt at censorship”, which had “already received its intended result – namely the partial stifling of [ Galloway's] lone voice… on the airwaves”.
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