Ofcom’s response to potential UK RT shutdown deftly calms both sides in free speech debate
When it comes to unplugging international broadcasters operating in any field, things definitely get serious. But if Britain’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom is serious about shutting down RT, it should make the decision on its own, not with politicians bragging, arms flailing, making all kinds of demands.
We are all surprised to choose from all these TV channels, hundreds of them broadcast from all over the world into our living rooms. Yet, ironically, we surf every night and still complain that we can’t find anything to watch.
But – and this is important – we have at least this shocking choice, and it is not just a technological marvel but a tribute to the wonders of the information age in which we live. We are no longer limited to terrestrial, cable or satellite, we can directly watch anything on the internet.
Yes, this is confusing. Yes, there is slag load. And yes, there have been opinions expressed that we may not agree with. But at least we have the ability to choose, and that is the beauty, not only of the democracy we live in, but also of the high esteem in which we hold the right to freedom of expression.
You can say whatever you want to anyone, even if it bothers them. Don’t expect everyone to agree with you. And whether at the dinner table or on the airwaves.
Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who hosts a show on RT, may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But then what? This does not mean that they should be silenced, as suggested by current Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Nor does it make him or his former media colleague George Galloway any demonic to choose to challenge the public narrative. They may be completely off the mark or hit the mark, but at least they’re asking weird questions. If a gentleman was lying or spreading fake news, it could be a different matter. But they are not.
They are among the voices of dissent, media figures with huge followings, who are better off being branded traitors or asked to step down as troublemakers and stand in line, just because a minister says so. Huh.
That’s no excuse for Salmond or Galloway, who are able to fight in their own corner without my help. But it is a defense of freedom of expression. If you have a dilemma regarding this question, pause for a second and imagine whether the shoe was on the other foot. If the Russians decide to shut down the BBC in their country or stop Sky or ITN journalists from working at their own pace, the British will be outraged, and rightly so.
Today’s cultural climate demands that television programs be accompanied by warnings of potentially disturbing content and advice on websites for “anyone affected by these issues”, and when it comes to disturbing “nanny’s best”. kind of knows” shit comes out, most of us just shut up, we politicians don’t need to add to this white noise because they think it makes them look tough.
Anyone who can navigate their way through TV Guide’s maze should be left alone to celebrate this small feat and watch their picks in peace, guilt-free.
Refreshingly, Ofcom was quick to respond to political demands by revising RT’s stance on the UK media landscape in bureaucratic-specific language, leaving enough leeway for both not responding to the minister’s request. Accept. Thinking, ” Yes, Prime Minister.,
Addressing Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries, her response partially read, ” Ofcom takes its role as an independent communications regulator very seriously, tasked with maintaining freedom of expression while ensuring that television and radio viewers are protected from harm.,
And while Ofcom may at times be criticized, the implicit response was to ‘get your tanks off our lawn’, with assurances that the situation in Ukraine was being monitored, exceeding the expectations of those seeking repression. Had enough to meet and expect those who submitted. Ofcom also said, “We are accelerating complaints in this area as urgency and will not hesitate to take prompt action if necessary.“It’s a difficult link.
Our regulators are far from perfect, but at least they try to be fair. And when the noise builds around the need to restrict foreign media production in a fiery mood, it must be hard to keep you calm.
So far, Ofcom has done enough to please both sides in this latest free speech debate, but, if the stakes go up, questions will be asked and we can’t be sure at this stage where the cards might fall. Huh.
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