Streaming service YouTube restores talkRADIO after a “further review” of its controversial decision to remove it over Covid-19 content
YouTube has quickly back-pedalled after it booted British national radio station, talkRADIO, off its streaming platform.
YouTube had removed talkRADIO on Wednesday but failed to explain its reasons why. It was thought this because some of its presenters had criticised the government decision to implement tough Coronavirus lockdowns.
But talkRADIO is one of the UK’s main news and speech radio stations and regularly hosts government ministers, and has an estimated 400,000 listeners.
It utilises a digital radio and online broadcast, as well using YouTube to host a video feed of live broadcasts and an archive of past shows.
It is regulated by Ofcom and under its rules, all British broadcasters are required to ensure that news is reported accurately and impartially.
Indeed, talkRADIO was furious at the action and said “we urgently await a detailed response from Google/YouTube about the nature of the breach that has led to our channel being removed from its platform.”
But on Tuesday evening, YouTube broke its silence and reinstated talkRADIO’s account, 12 hours after banning the radio station for what it alleged were breaches of its community guidelines.
“TalkRADIO’s YouTube channel was briefly suspended, but upon further review, has now been reinstated,” a YouTube spokesperson was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying.
“We quickly remove flagged content that violate our Community Guidelines, including Covid-19 content that explicitly contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization,” the spokesperson added. “We make exceptions for material posted with an educational, documentary, scientific or artistic purpose, as was deemed in this case.”
Over zealous enforcement?
A talkRADIO insider told the Guardian that the problem was particularly acute for shows that host public debates about the coronavirus.
“You can have a debate about an issue and if, in someone’s opinion, it undermines official guidance in any way, then it is classed as medical misinformation,” they said.
YouTube’s content moderation system enforces a “three strikes” rule, under which accounts can be issued “strikes” for posting content that violates content guidelines, the newspaper reported.
A single strike carries with it a number of restrictions, but a channel receiving three strikes in a 90-day period will be removed from the platform entirely.
The Guardian understands that one previous strike had been issued on talkRADIO’s account for a discussion featuring the Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood.
At least two of the station’s hosts, Mark Dolan and Julia Hartley-Brewer, regularly speak out against lockdown policies.
“This was a decision for YouTube,” an Ofcom spokesperson was quoted by the Guardian as saying. “Like other UK stations, talkRADIO’s radio channel comes under our broadcasting code. When we assess programmes under our rules, we take account of a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and the right of listeners to receive information and ideas.”
YouTube had earlier this year already banned ‘medically unsubstantiated’ claims relating to Covid-19 on its platform, but in October it went one step further to ban misleading content relating to vaccines.
talkRADIO insists it has robust editorial controls in place, and takes care to balance debate.