Fury and recriminations over pirate radio station's antisemitic broadcast
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 March 2019
An unlicensed radio station has become the focus of a social media storm after inadvertently airing a "grotesque" spoof tape by US white supremacists.
Omega FM Radio in Harlesden has apologised, sacked a presenter and gone temporarily off air after national campaigners intervened.
At the same time, regular listeners have complained to Ofcom and the regulator has suggested the content of the illegal broadcast could be a police matter.
On Sunday, February 17, a presenter under the pseudonym ‘King Lion’ used part of his afternoon slot to address racism towards “melanated [dark-skinned] peoples”.
He went on to play a recorded interview between a supposed American pastor and someone claiming to be “Rabbi Abe Finkelstein”, a Zionist ostensibly hailing from the East Coast of the US.
In the tape, the person purporting to be a rabbi alleges or confirms a string of outrageous antisemitic tropes.
These include undermining the number of people who died in the Holocaust, claiming that “Jewish banking families” control America and engineered 9/11 and the Iraq war “to make some shekels”.
He also suggests Jews are engaged in a “brown-out” of America and “trying to eliminate the white race”, and that “our god is Lucifer”.
The Times has since learned that the fake tape was created by James P Wickstrom, a Christian minister and infamous white supremacist who died in 2018.
In the broadcast, King Lion appears to present the tape as genuine, telling audiences: “It’s quite interesting to hear the admission of this.”
But this newspaper has also discovered he was aired the same material on a different London radio station more than six years ago, and should have been fully aware it was fake.
The broadcast sparked a volley of complaints and the intervention of online campaign group the Israel Advocacy Movement, with Omega issuing a public apology on Facebook.
A spokesperson for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “This is as blatant a case of antisemitism as we have every heard. Just about every trope is covered.
“Omega FM still needs to answer questions about how it selects its presenters and how this kind of disgraceful racist material was able to be broadcast.”
A local listener, who asked not to be named, said: “Bizarrely, this recent offensive material is produced by white supremacists in America, yet has been aired on a black community station.
“It’s bad enough knowing that the society we live in is institutionally racist, but when minorities are looking for scapegoats it’s very dangerous.”
A spokesperson for Ofcom, the UK government broadcasting regulator, told the Times: “This organisation does not hold a licence and so was broadcasting illegally.
“We investigate all reports of illegal broadcasting and, while it appears that the station is no longer on-air, we will be monitoring the situation closely.”
They added that because Omega does not hold a licence, any material likely to incite crime or disorder is subject to general criminal law, making this a police matter.
Omega, which stands for Organising Mothers to Eradicate Gun-knife Atrocity, was set up in 2008 with the stated mission of combating youth crime in inner London.
The management told the Times they have plans to apply for a licence in the future and said in a public statement the presenter’s actions had been “totally unacceptable”.
They added: “We would like all to know we did not plan and did not know that the presenter in question would play such propaganda foolishness on his show.
“Such actions cannot be accepted or tolerated. We have dismissed him and he is no longer or part or [sic] has any representation on our behalf.”
Where did the tape come from?
The “Abe Finkelstein” tape is thought to be at least a decade and a half old, with the earliest internet records going back to 2006.
The creator, James P Wickstrom, was an American talk show host and avowed racist and anti-semite who was reported to have died last March.
About six years ago ‘King Lion’ was able to surreptitiously play the same tape on another London-based community radio station, Genesis.
Baruch Solomon, a Jewish writer and researcher in south London, said he had phoned in to correct the presenter at the time.
He said: “I asked if he was aware the tape was made by a white supremacist. He was unfazed and replied to the effect that such people can sometimes have valuable insights.
“When I pointed out that Rabbi Finklestein was obviously not real he suggested that he trace Rabbi Finklestein and get him on the programme so I could debate him.
“He told me to stay on the line. Then the line went dead.”
Genesis did not respond to our requests for comment.
What next for Omega?
Omega has been operating in Harlesden since 2008 and the website domain name, omegafmradio.co.uk, was registered in 2011.
The station has about 25 presenters on its books, many of whom are local to Brent, and in the past it has hosted public speakers and academics.
Many of the non-musical broadcasts focus on issues of interest to the Afro-Caribbean community as well as themes of injustice and oppression.
One of the current managers, who asked not to be named, said all sensitive material should have been “filtered” through a producer.
He said: “It’s extremely concerning. Having experienced racism in this country I don’t condone any hate against any group.
“For us it’s extremely difficult when we’re trying to raise the mindset of people who have had difficulties for so long… This is frustrating because it’s actually set us back as an entity.”
In the past listeners have complained about other broadcasts, including some that appear to promote conspiracy theories and incite tensions between groups.
The manager conceded Omega “always” gets complaints but claimed there had only been one very serious one in the past.
For the time being, he said, the station was off air as a mark of solidarity.
He added: “There’s going to have to be an appropriate discussion. We have to put everything on hold and explain to everyone the ramifications of this.”
A regular presenter, Asia, also posted a public apology on YouTube, telling viewers: “You can tell that this was not a rabbi or a pastor but a couple of racist dogs.
“I was deeply offended and I pray this doesn’t destroy the good work that the station have done within the community.”
Who is King Lion?
The presenter known as King Lion was first offered a slot on Omega two to three years ago, on the understanding he was a health practitioner.
His website, cancerbush.org.uk, promotes unlicensed herbal remedies for the treatment of life-threatening diseases including cancer.
It also includes a page entitled “Chemtrail Alert”, referring to a common conspiracy theory that aircraft are purposefully spraying biological agents over the populace.
Elsewhere it warns parents against giving their children Tamiflu, the antiviral medicine used to treat swine flu in the UK.
In the months leading up to the broadcast, King Lion used his Omega slot to promote other controversial theories.
In one segment on February 15 a guest claimed her “suppressed” home-made condiments were a more powerful antibiotic than antibiotics.
Elsewhere, King Lion suggested Donald Trump was the reincarnation of Cyrus the Great: a Persian king named in the Hebrew Bible as deliverer of the Jewish people.
In a cult-themed broadcast on February 10 this year he stated: “The church has become the synagogue of Satan.”
The Omega manager said he had not listened to every broadcast, but conceded: “Perhaps the rhetoric changed and I hadn’t noticed. He’s an idiot who had taken it upon himself to ignore all instructions.”
King Lion did not respond to a request for comment.