I've just had one of my more bizarre broadcasting experiences with Press TV. I was invited on to do an hour's discussion on the Presidency of George W Bush. When I got there I discovered that the title of the programmes was: "Is George W Bush the Worst President in US History?" and that it was to be presented by Yvonne Ridley. Ridley is the former Sunday Express journalist who was captured by the Taliban and then converted to Islam.
I had never met Ms Ridley before, so being the polite lad I am, extended my hand to shake hands with her. She recoiled. "I don't do that!" she exclaimed. "What do you mean, you don't do that?" I asked, slightly nervously. "Have you never been to an Arab country?" she asked. "Not many," I said. "Well if you had, you'd know that muslim women don't shake hands with men," she informed me. "Well all the muslim women I know not only shake my hand but usually kiss me," I retorted. And then I added for good measure: "And anyway, I always go by the maxim, when in England...". So we didn't get off to a very good start.
The discussion itself was much more measured than I had expected, with the three other panellists (a former Nixon administration official, a woman from the Transatlantic Institute and an Oxford academic) all saying more positive things about Bush than I had thought. Sadly, I wasn't as belligerent as I had looked forward to being!
Press TV is Iranian owned and in December will go on the Sky platform. It is broadcast in 56 countries around the world and although it is sometimes thought to be an Iranian mouthpiece, I have never sensed that anything was ever censored. Indeed, I was told that Robert Fisk went on it last year and called Ahmedinijad a "crackpot". This did cause some consternation. Initially, the Iranians thought he was accusing him of being a drug dealer, rather than just being crazy. Crazy turned out to be OK.