George Galloway radio show breached Ofcom rules

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PA

George Galloway’s radio show breached impartiality rules when discussing the Salisbury poisonings, Ofcom has ruled.

The show on talkRadio saw the former MP discussing the attempted murder of Yulia and Sergei Skripal in March 2018.

Ofcom said the majority of comments from Mr Galloway and his listeners were highly critical of the government, while the small number of opposite views were treated dismissively.

Mr Galloway said Ofcom’s investigation was an attempt at censorship.

The watchdog is now considering whether to impose a “statutory sanction” over the breach, which could include a fine.

The three-hour programme aired on 16 March 2018 – 12 days after the former Russian double agent and his daughter were discovered unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, having been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok.

A UK investigation blamed Russia for the attack and sanctions were placed on the country as a result – with many allies following the UK’s lead, including the US.

But the Kremlin denied any involvement.

After questioning Russia’s culpability and saying the county was “the least likely suspect of them all”, Mr Galloway then spoke to a number of listeners, most of whom agreed with his point of view.

When, on three occasions, listeners disagreed with his view, Mr Galloway joked that they had sent their messages from Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.

Ofcom investigated a complaint that the programme contained “biased and unbalanced views” about the response of the UK and Russian governments to the poisoning.

It 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”.

‘Need for dissenting voices’

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 Mr Galloway described Ofcom’s investigation as a “transparently politically motivated attempt at censorship”, which had “already received its intended result – namely the partial stifling of [Mr Galloway’s] lone voice… on the airwaves”.

The ruling comes after Ofcom announced in December that the RT news channel – formerly Russia Today – had not been impartial in seven of its news and current affairs programmes aired in the UK over a six-week period.

Two of the programmes – which mostly discussed the poisonings or the conflict in Syria – featured Mr Galloway.