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Friday, April 23, 1999 Published at 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK


UK regulator revokes Kurdish Med TV's licence

The London-based Kurdish satellite channel Med TV has condemned as "undoubtedly political" the decision by the UK's Independent Television Commission to revoke its broadcasting licence.

Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring's Foreign Media Unit has the background: The UK Independent Television Commission (ITC) today (23rd April) revoked the broadcasting licence of the Kurdish satellite channel Med TV, which uplinks its broadcasts from London by satellite.

Med TV's licence was suspended on 22nd March following four broadcasts which, in the ITC's view, " included inflammatory statements encouraging acts of violence in Turkey and elsewhere" .

Med TV said in a press release this afternoon it was " outraged" by the decision, adding: "The decision is undoubtedly political and Med TV fears the decision is inspired by the UK government's relationship with Turkey, its NATO ally, particularly at the present time" .

Med TV added: "We can reassure the Kurdish people that we will be back on air before long." The programmes of Med TV, in Kurdish dialects and Turkish, as well as a daily news bulletin in English, were aimed at Kurds living in Europe and the Middle East, in particular Turkey.

Med TV's newsroom and production centre are in Belgium, and the company also has facilities in other European capitals.

In 1994 Med TV was granted a 10-year licence by the Independent Television Commission (ITC), which regulates all commercial TV broadcasts in the UK.

It began regular broadcasting on a Eutelsat satellite in May 1995, but pressure from Turkey on several European countries forced the station to change its satellite transmission arrangements repeatedly.

In the past Med TV has also used Intelsat and Orion satellites, and it was carried most recently on a Eutelsat Hot Bird satellite.

On four occasions between November 1996 and March 1998, Med TV received warnings and fines for breaches of the ITC's rules on impartiality.

In November 1998 the ITC warned Med TV that its licence would be revoked if over the following six months its service failed to comply with its licence and the ITC's Programme Code.

That warning followed two breaches of the ITC Programme Code and reflected what the ITC described as "a recurrent lack of balance in political coverage" .

ITC Chairman Sir Robin Biggam said today that while the commission had taken "sympathetic" account of the circumstances in which the offending broadcasts had been made, and the changes Med TV itself had proposed to make to its service in future, the ITC had decided to revoke the station's licence "in the public interest" .

"Whatever sympathy there may be in the United Kingdom for the Kurdish people, it is not in the public interest to have any broadcaster use the UK as a platform for broadcasts which incite people to violence.

Med TV have been given many opportunities to be a peaceful voice for their community; to allow them to continue broadcasting after such serious breaches would be to condone the misuse of the UK's system for licensing broadcasters," the ITC chairman stated.

He added that while the ITC regretted the step, it was obliged by parliament "to act in such circumstances." The Turkish government, alleging that Med TV is a mouthpiece for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has on several occasions accused the station of broadcasting " terrorist propaganda" .

Ankara has brought pressure to bear on most countries that have leased airtime to Med TV, and has repeatedly asked the UK to close down the station.

Med TV in turn has accused the Turkish authorities on several occasions of disrupting its transmissions by "sabotage" and "state jamming" .

The ITC decision was reported factually and without comment by Turkey's Anatolia news agency.

Med TV now has a number of options: it could seek a new country to grant it a licence; it could try to struggle on, using satellite feeds booked by the hour, which appear to fall outside any UK licensing regulations; it could make more use of the Internet; and it could form a different TV channel in the UK or elsewhere.

Source: Monitoring research 23 Apr 99

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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