FIREBRAND politician George Galloway has been told about the need for dissenting voices after his TalkRadio show came under fire for ridiculing phone-in comments aired after the Skripal poisoning.

The broadcast watchdog Ofcom said it is considering a statutory sanction deciding that the Dundee-born former Respect MP's TalkRadio show breached its rules by not maintaining due impartiality on a major matter of political controversy.

The three-hour programme aired 12 days after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yuli were poisoned by Novichok after it was sprayed on the door handle of a property in Salisbury.

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.

Ofcom said that 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.

HeraldScotland: APPEAL: George Galloway at the recent election count at Odsal

Ofcom said the show failed to give due weight to a sufficiently wide range of significant viewpoints about the political aftermath of the events in Salisbury.

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

Mr Galloway had taken a position criticising the UK Government, and questioning the validity of the Government’s allegations about the involvement of the Russian authorities.

Ofcom said the first 11 text messages read out were broadly supportive of the host's views on the events in Salisbury.

Ofcom questioned Mr Galloway's response suggesting that some listeners who had sent in messages were housed in Broadmoor.

He read a message which appeared to be a listener’s response to the Scot's description of an opinion poll finding that 75% of the public were supportive of the position of Theresa May on the issue of the Skripals as a "misrepresentation"

“You’re totally wrong, public opinion is not changing. Wishful thinking on your part I guess. Comrade Corbyn has been exposed…", said the message.

Mr Galloway responded: “That’s in Broadmoor, Ward five. They’ve got the radio on and all the patients are gathered round and Nurse Ratched is keeping hold of them. None of them seems to have been able to get their hands on a phone yet."

Nurse Ratched is a tyrannical psychiatric nurse featured in the novel and film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Ofcom said: "We understood this to mean that Mr Galloway was suggesting that these listeners were in need of psychiatric care for holding the positions they held.

"While we took account of Mr Galloway’s argument that such comments are entertaining and consistent with his style as a presenter, we considered they nevertheless had the effect of dismissing and denigrating listeners who held views which differed from his own, and constituted a clear difference in the treatment of views which do and do not align with Mr Galloway’s own."

TalkSport, which holds the licence for TalkRadio, said Galloway’s “controversial views” would “not come as a surprise to listeners”.

TalkRadio responded by saying that a producer had spoken to Mr Galloway "of the need for dissenting voices to be heart, something which Galloway has always welcomed and encouraged".


The station said that "when expressing strong opinions in subsequent editions of his programme, Mr Galloway has agreed to invite contrary opinions from listeners…”.

The producer of the programme had also been "instructed to provide a well-informed guest whose views conflict with Galloway’s to provide due weight to the opposing view”.

And if a guest could not be booked a TalkRadio presenter would be added to the line-up to challenge Mr Galloway on his views as well as provide "an alternative viewpoint".

A pre-recorded jingle had also been produced declaring "let the debate begin" inviting listeners to phone, text and email and "challenge Galloway on air", The station said it was being played at least once an hour and every time that the Scot introduces a new topic.

“All the pro-active measures [it has] taken will stimulate debate, making for more entertaining, thought-provoking radio that [it is] committed to produce," said the station.

It also said that it had “taken swift and appropriate action to resolve this issue by ensuring that Galloway’s views are countered by listeners, guests and fellow TalkRadio presenters to provide informative, riveting and balanced debate".

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

Ofcom said he acknowledged that he sometimes - although less so now due to complaints from mental health campaigners -  describes listeners with alternative views as being “from Ward 5” and he said “that’s entertainment”.

Mr 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.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “Our investigation found that this phone-in programme breached our due impartiality rules. 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.

“We are minded to consider imposing a statutory sanction for these breaches. Talk Radio now has an opportunity to make representations to us, which we will consider before proceeding further.”

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 Mr Galloway.

RT later said it planned to take Ofcom to court after it found seven of its programmes in breach of broadcasting rules.  

In 2009, Ofcom said Mr Galloway breached the broadcast rules on impartiality during his shows on Press TV, the news  channel funded by the Iranian government.