Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website
London, 29 September: Local Ramadan radio stations begin their annual broadcasts across Britain next week amid fears of being charged with breaching a new code of standards introduced by the communications regulator, Ofcom, in July.
According to Muslim News, applicants for a record 82 Restrictive Service Licences (RSL’s) have expressed concern about undue interference by the regulator.
“Ofcom has stated that they would like to work with radio Ramadans about the contents of the programmes,” one applicant was quoted saying. Another described the undue interference as “religious discrimination,” saying Ofcom had “set of rules for Muslims and another for the rest”.
The concern comes after Ramadan radio stations have been operating in Britain for the past 13 years, with many of the country’s 1.8 million Muslim community tuning in, when breaking their fast.
Particular unease relates to a clause on ‘harm and offence,’ which states that programmes must not include material which “condones or glamorizes violent, dangerous or seriously antisocial behaviour and is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour”.
In the current climate of the government’s anti-terrorism focus on so-called ‘extremism’ in the Muslim community, fears were expressed about the definition of “seriously antisocial behaviour”.
But Ofcom denied that the implementation of its new code had anything with anti-terrorism measures following July’s London bombings.
“The new code is not terrorism related. The new code was actually formulated in May, a good two months before the London attacks,” a spokesman told the Muslim News.
First-time RSL applicant Mohammed Anwar, who will be in charge of Nelson’s APNY Nawaz station in northwest England, said that like many others, it would also be difficult to assess the interpretation of inflammatory comments from the merely controversial views.
“We’ve briefed our staff to scan the callers in phone-ins. For example, they’ve been told to cut off anybody who promotes terrorism,” Anwar said.
Ghulam Hussain, applicant for High Wycombe’s Radio Ramzan, west of London, also said that there was a “little confusion” after being sent a letter about the codes.
In a forward of the new code, Ofcom Content Board Chair, Richard Hooper, insisted that rights of free expression came with “duties and responsibilities” and said the code were in the light of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.” But Ejaz Siddique, administrating for Radio Ramadhan Birmingham, in central England, spoke of the importance of programmes interpreting the Quran and said his station was “not going to shy away from talking about jihad”.
(Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1213 gmt 29 Sep 05 via BBC Monitoring)