The UK's talkRADIO has been reinstated by video website YouTube following an all-day ban — after giving airtime to criticisms of the government's COVID-19 restrictions.
The broadcaster's account, which had attracted 250,000 subscribers and tens of millions of views, was “terminated for violating YouTube’s community guidelines”, the US-based site said.
YouTube's move came hours before opposition Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer urged emergency legislation to make "anti-vax" scepticism illegal.
The radio station confirmed the removal of its YouTube account in the small hours of Tuesday morning in a statement on Twitter later in the day.
“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", a spokesperson said.
“talkRADIO is an Ofcom-licensed and regulated broadcaster and has robust editorial controls in place, taking care to balance debate", the spokesperson added. "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”.
A later statement from the station went further, saying YouTube's decision "sets a dangerous precedent and is censorship of free speech and legitimate national debate."
But talkRADIO celebrated on Tuesday evening after its account was reinstated, tweeting a statement from YouTube saying certain it had removed unspecified "content" that flagged its so-called "Community Guidelines".
Former Brexit Party MEP Alex Phillips welcomed the reinstatement live on air after it was announced by presenter James Whale. But she warned of "cyber enterprises being governed by woke wannabes".
YouTube's COVID guidelines, imposed in May, forbid "content that disputes the efficacy of local health authorities’ or WHO’s guidance on physical distancing or self-isolation measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19" — effectively prohibiting any questioning of official approaches to the pandemic.
The civil liberties campaign Big Brother Watch attacked the move, tweeting a video of Cabinet Office Secretary Michael Gove assuring talkRADIO that big tech companies like YouTube should not censor those questioning the government's handling of the pandemic.
— Big Brother Watch (@BigBrotherWatch) January 5, 2021
The station, launched in 2016, has often aired opinions from guests and listeners critical of the government's coronavirus policies or complaining of the negative effects of the lockdown on their lives. Current and former talkRADIO presenters include James Whale, journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer, outspoken former MP George Galloway, and US talks show host Jerry Springer.
On Tuesday's edition of ITV's Good Morning Britain, Starmer — a former director of public prosecutions, the UK's chief prosecutor — called for "emergency" legislation to be rushed through Parliament in days to criminalise vaccine scepticism.
"We have to deal with the anti-vax campaigns, because they will cost lives", Starmer insisted. "If we need to pass emergency legislation to deal with them I'd be quite prepared to work with the government on that. We could pass it in a couple of days in Parliament".
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) January 5, 2021
Meanwhile a video, ironically posted on YouTube, showed Labour backbench MP Ian Lavery asking "why would anybody have any confidence in the vaccine?" when the currently in-use jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca had been telescoped from years to months.
— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) January 5, 2021