US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks show that the British Foreign Office told the US embassy in London back in February that it was “exploring ways to limit the operations of… Press TV.”
The WikiLeaks documents revealed that the authorities reconsidered their decision in the face of legal difficulties at the time, but were still looking at other ways to address the issue, including using possible new anti-Iranian sanctions to justify their measures.
Based on the secret cables, the action on Press TV was meant to pressure the Iranian government, which Britain claimed was jamming the signals of BBC Persian TV, after London failed in its joint efforts with Paris and Washington to lobby the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which regulates satellite transmissions, to rule against Tehran over BBC Persian.
The WikiLeaks files disclosed that the decision “to limit the operation of IRIB's [Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting] Press TV service” was dropped as the Iranian English-language broadcaster was operating in line with British law.
“Licences [to broadcasters in Britain] can only be denied in cases where national security is threatened, or if granting a licence would be contrary to Britain's obligations under international law. Currently neither of these standards can be met with respect to Press TV,” the documents read.
“But if further sanctions are imposed on Iran in the coming months, a case may be able to be made on the second criterion," the cables added.