YouTube terminates account of Murdoch-owned radio station

(Logo: News Corporation, Graphic by The Desk)

YouTube this week terminated the account of a News Corporation-owned radio station.

A message posted by YouTube on the account formerly used by British broadcaster Talk Radio said the channel was removed for “violating YouTube’s community guidelines,” though the post didn’t specify which part of YouTube’s policy was violated.

Talk Radio acknowledged the termination of its YouTube channel in a statement posted on other social media platforms Tuesday morning.

“We urgently await a detailed response from Google [and] YouTube about the nature of the breach that has led to our channel being removed from its platform,” a spokesperson for the radio network said, adding that Talk Radio is licensed by British media regulators and has “robust” editorial policies to ensure a balance of opinion on its programs.

“We regularly interrogate government data and we have controls in place, use verifiable sources and give space to a careful selection of voices and opinions,” the spokesperson said.

Talk Radio is operated by Wireless Group Limited, which has been owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation since 2016. The station operates a digital radio signal that is received across the United Kingdom and is simulcasted online.

Before this week, Talk Radio posted video clips filmed in its studios during radio segments. The station has drawn criticism in recent months for hosting conservative commentators who have repeated conspiracy theories about the ongoing coronavirus health pandemic, including the effectiveness of face masks.

In October, YouTube began cracking down on accounts that post videos filled with misinformation and controversial statements about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, YouTube said videos that contain content regarding the treatment, prevention, diagnosis or transmission of COVID-19 that is contradictory to guidance and information offered by the World Health Organization would not be allowed on its platform.

Among other things, YouTube said it would not allow videos that claimed COVID-19 was caused or spread by 5G wireless signals, that vaccines developed to fight COVID-19 would kill people who receive it. In November, YouTube temporarily suspended an account used by startup conservative news outlet One America News (OAN) after a review of OAN’s content found it to be in violation of these rules.

On Tuesday, The Desk found numerous examples of Talk Radio commentators and callers making remarks on-the-air that would violate YouTube’s policy. The examples were found in the form of videos posted to the social networking website Twitter, some of which were also simultaneously posted on YouTube before Talk Radio’s channel was deleted.

In one segment, a Talk Radio commentator named Mark Dolan cut up a face mask while live on the air after claiming they were responsible for “killing” COVID-19 patients. The video, which received a moderate amount of attention on Twitter, went viral on YouTube.

In another segment, a caller said those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine should stop wearing face masks in order to allow their immune systems to build up a defense against the coronavirus. The idea contradicts health guidance offered by medical experts around the world.

But Talk Radio segments also appeared to help dispel some rumors about the coronavirus, including dubious claims that the virus was spread by 5G wireless phone signals.

Talk Radio continues to offer live simulcasts of its radio programs on Facebook Live, with segments appearing on both Facebook and Twitter shortly after they’re broadcast.