Broadcasting regulator give respite to LTTE’s IBC radio

(September 02, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The LTTE front radio service International Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) run from London on Hotbird satellite for twenty four hours and on the airtime of medium wave Spectrum Radio escaped sanctions by the broadcasting regulator, the Office of Communication (Ofcom). Ofcom investigated the complaints registered by listeners that the said radio station broadcast songs and views to celebrate the birthday of the LTTE leader Pirabakaran on 26 November 2007. Their investigations ended after nine months of painstaking work.

IBC’s main satellite radio did not come under investigations, as it is run without a licence and is said to be registered under a clandestine address somewhere overseas. The medium wave Spectrum Radio is run by the Turkish community and the LTTE activists pay exorbitant sums for the two hours of airtime purchased to broadcast between 19.00hrs to 21.00hrs daily. The medium wave Spectrum is a licensed radio station and comes under the regulatory scope of the Ofcom.

Having thoroughly investigated the complaints to establish the facts, the Ofcom gave respite to the IBC based on the assurance given by the broadcaster that ‘extra care will be taken in the future in producing similar broadcasts’. However the Ofcom has given a clear warning by stating: ‘Ofcom….reserves the right to consider any repeat instance of similar material on a case-by-case-basis. Ofcom reminds the broadcaster of the care it needs to take when dealing with these sensitive and controversial subjects’.

The IBC radio service is presently run from the offices of Spectrum Radio after having evicted from their previous office in South London for non-payment of rent to the landlord.

The full text of the Ofcom report:

Vaan Osai

International Broadcasting Corporation (Spectrum Radio (558AM)), 26 November 2007, 19:00


On 26 November 2007, the International Broadcasting Corporation (“IBC”) broadcast

a programme that included celebratory material commemorating the birthday of Mr

Velupillai Pirabakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (“the

LTTE”). The LTTE is presently a proscribed terrorist organisation under the Terrorism

Act 2000. This means that under current UK legislation it is unlawful to be a member

of the LTTE, to raise funds for it or to invite or encourage support for it.

Ofcom received two complaints about this programme from members of the public.

Issues raised by these complaints were that the programme:

v celebrated the birthday of Mr Velupillai Pirabakaran, the leader of the


v ‘promoted an event to be held at the Excel centre in London to

commemorate the LTTE’s “Heroes’ Day” celebrations;

v broadcast the comments of “ardent LTTE supporters” that appeared to

promote terrorism;

v broadcast comments and LTTE songs that praised Mr Pirabakaran; and

v contained material that was “serious and confirmed [the] glorification of

terrorism”. (Under the Terrorism Act 2006, the “glorification” of terrorism is a

criminal offence).

Citing these issues, Ofcom asked the broadcaster to comment on how the

programme complied with Rule 2.4 of the Code (programmes should not include

material which condones or glamorises violent, dangerous or seriously antisocial



IBC stated that it was genuinely surprised that the content of the programme could

be regarded as being in breach of the Code or that it glorified terrorism. This was

never intended. With particular reference to the issues raised by the complaints, IBC

said that:

‘it was not uncommon for the station to celebrate/commemorate the birth

events of the Tamil Leaders of “all hues” and that therefore the allocation of

air-time to celebrate Mr Pirakaraban’s birthday should not be seen in

isolation. As a community based broadcaster, IBC said that it was obliged to

reflect the views of its audience and as such these views do not always reflect

the views of the broadcaster;

* the telephone number for the programme was given out by the presenter

during the programme for listeners to call in and participate;

* the event, held at the Excel Centre on 27 November 2007, to the best of

IBC’s knowledge, was not linked to the “Heroes’ Day” celebrations of the

LTTE. IBC said that the event was organised by “the general public to

commemorate their loved ones” and that appropriate permission for the event

was given by the Metropolitan Police; and

* IBC said that it did not agree that the programme’s content was “in

glorification of terrorism”. IBC said that to take offence at a “benign”

programme that allowed the audience to “greet an individual” pointed to

intolerance. IBC assured Ofcom that it did not intend to promote or glorify

terrorism either expressly or otherwise. It said that “the complaints…were

unfortunate and an interference with the freedom of expression of one’s


IBC did however acknowledge that in a few cases certain inappropriate comments

and words in songs were allowed to be broadcast; and confirmed that extra care

would be taken in future to ensure compliance in similar live broadcasts.


Rule 2.4 states that programmes “must not include material (whether in individual

programmes or in programmes taken together) which, taking into account the

context, condones or glamorises violent, dangerous or seriously antisocial behaviour

and is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour”.

Ofcom examined an independently translated transcript of the programme. Included

in the material broadcast, Ofcom noted the following illustrative announcement:

“We can’t tolerate anymore sufferings/Enough of our not violent struggle/The

only way is Armed struggle/He [ie Mr Pirabakaran] decided it and he is the

only leader who is taking forward the Tamil race’s Freedom

Struggle…/Walking ahead for the dawn of the Tamils/In the battlefield…”

Ofcom also took note of contributions from callers to the programme, one of whom


“If we want our nation’s borders defined. If we want to slain the flying

Singalese eagles, it is in the hands of migrant Tamils”.

Ofcom also noted the following words to songs included in the programme:

“He took the spear…taking the spear he finished the Tamil enemies…He took

the rifle…Taking the rifle he started a new army/Started the Tiger Force”;

“Our only talk is Tamil Eelam - he said/Kill all the on coming army – he

said/As long as the Tigers live – they are dust – he said”;

“When the Hindu and Christian churches were/Destroyed by the bombs/

He protected the people with the air force/He fired missiles and created a

new era…”; and
- Sri Lanka Guardian