GB News faces potential sanction from Ofcom

GB News faces potential sanction from Ofcom
Sunak on People's Forum: The Prime Minister

Regulator Ofcom has started a process to consider “a statutory sanction” against GB News.

This follows the broadcaster’s “failure to preserve due impartiality” on its live hour-long question-and-answer programme with prime minister Rishi Sunak and a live audience, called People’s Forum: The Prime Minister.

Ofcom received 547 complaints about the show. In a statement, the regulator said it found GB News’ breaches of the code on due impartiality in this case to be “serious” and, given two previous breaches of the rules, “repeated”.

GB News needed to ensure “an appropriately wide range of significance views was given due weight in the programme or in other clearly linked and timely programmes”, Ofcom said.

Major matter

In addition, because of the forthcoming general election, the show was defined as “a major matter” under Ofcom’s rules, meaning “heightened special impartiality requirements” had to be applied.

Ofcom found that Sunak had “a mostly uncontested platform to promote policies and performance of his government in a period preceding a UK general election” and that GB News’ approach to compliance was “wholly insufficient”.

The regulator aims to conclude its considerations of sanctions against GB News within 60 working days. This could be a financial penalty or an issue to broadcast a correction or not repeat the programme, or to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings.

‘Alarming development’

In a statement to The Media Leader, GB News maintained that the programme was in line with the broadcasting code and Ofcom’s finding was “an alarming development” to silence the broadcaster by obstructing a forum that allows the public to question politicians directly.

It added: “Its finding today is a watershed moment that should terrify anyone who believes, as we do, that the media’s role is to give a voice to the people of the United Kingdom, especially those who all too often feel unheard or ignored by their politicians.

“We are proud to be the people’s channel and we will never stop fighting for the right of everyone in the UK, whatever their political persuasion, to have their perspective heard.”

The company you keep

Ian Daly, head of AV investment at the7stars told The Media Leader that whether or not to advertise on GB news was a question for brands to discuss with their agencies, and one that will depend on brand values and media objectives.

He added: “That said, this latest episode from GB News seems to challenge the aim set out by ISBA to ‘create an advertising environment that is transparent, responsible and accountable; one that can be trusted by the public, by advertisers and by legislators’. Whilst this aim may not have been written with editorial in mind, I think most advertisers would accept that the ‘company that you keep’ matters.”

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