George Galloway’s radio show breached broadcasting rules

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

George Galloway’s talkRadio show breached rules with comments that aired after the Skripal poisoning, watchdog Ofcom has said.

The three-hour programme aired 12 days after the incident involving Yulia and Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

Ofcom found that the programme did not maintain due impartiality on a major matter of political controversy.

Decontamination work outside the Salisbury home of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal (Ben Birchall/PA)

“It failed to give due weight to a sufficiently wide range of significant viewpoints about the political aftermath of the events in Salisbury in March 2018,” an Ofcom spokeswoman said.

The watchdog said it was “minded to consider the imposition of a statutory sanction” over the breach, which could include a financial penalty.

On three occasions, when the audience contributions differed to the former MP’s position, Galloway joked that the listeners who had sent in their messages were in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.

Ofcom investigated a complaint that the programme, broadcast on March 16, contained “biased and unbalanced views” about the response of the UK and Russian governments to the poisoning.

Regulator Ofcom said it was ‘minded to consider the imposition of a statutory sanction’ over the breach (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

TalkSport, which holds the licence for talkRadio, said Galloway’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”.

Galloway described Ofcom’s investigation as a “transparently politically motivated attempt at censorship”.

Galloway, and the vast majority of messages from guests and listeners which were read out by him, were highly critical of the UK Government’s response to the poisonings, the Ofcom investigation found.

The small number of contributors who gave an alternative view were treated dismissively.

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

Two of the programmes, which were mostly about the Skripal poisoning or the conflict in Syria, featured former MP Galloway.