George Galloway puts talkRADIO in breach with Ofcom

A complaint against George Galloway on talkRADIO has been upheld by Ofcom.

The regulator was alerted to his programme on 16th March 2018 which the complainant said it contained “biased and unbalanced views” about the response of the UK and Russian Governments to the poisoning of Yulia and Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March 2018. The complainant also considered that any listeners who attempted to challenge Mr Galloway’s views were “mocked and ridiculed”.

Ofcom said it considered this programme raised potential issues as it was dealing with a matter of major political controversy and major matter relating to current public policy, namely, the policies and actions of the UK and Russian authorities, concerning the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Part of George’s comments on the matter can be read online here, pages 6-11 of this PDF.

In response to the complaint, the station described Mr Galloway as a “national figure known for his controversial views which would not come as a surprise to listeners”. It added that the “majority of listeners are familiar with his reputation as well as the format of his ‘personal view’ phone-in programmes… and would be comfortable with adjusting their expectations of due impartiality”.

The Licensee also described Mr Galloway as “famous for holding highly partial opinions that are anything but mainstream and are more often than not at odds with the majority of his fellow presenters on” talkRADIO.

The Licensee acknowledged that Mr Galloway’s “introduction against the Government’s position on the Skripal-Novichok affair went unchallenged” but considered it “reasonable to assume that Galloway’s colourful critique would be regarded by listeners as a highly opinionated personal-view attack by Galloway that did not require a formal rebuttal”.

The bosses at the station were also of the view that Mr Galloway’s comments were largely “questioning the calibre of those in power and their comments… rather than major matters of government policy”. It also considered that, rather than “attacking government policy or action”, Mr Galloway was “putting forward a number of hypotheses as to who was responsible for the Skripal poisoning”.

talkRADIO highlighted that the station’s schedule demonstrated impartiality, with four guests on the breakfast show the same day who discussed the Skripal poisoning and expressed support for the Government’s handling of the crisis.

The Licensee also considered it “relevant to point out that on the day in question, the producer of George Galloway’s show endeavoured to persuade a number of guests to feature on the programme to challenge Galloway’s views” but “all of them declined”.

talkRADIO defended Mr Galloway’s “right to broadcast his opinions without interference, as well as its overall approach to complying with due impartiality requirements across” the schedule. However, it accepted that “on this occasion, there was not enough lively debate provided by either listeners or guests to challenge Mr Galloway’s views within the programme itself”.

The Licensee said that this did not produce “the kind of entertaining, robust and controversial debate that makes for good radio, whereas airing diverse opinions is sound editorial policy that also ensures regulatory compliance with regard to due impartiality”.

The station has taken a number of steps to avoid the situation happening again.