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GB News rapped by Ofcom for third time

GB News rapped by Ofcom for third time

GB News has breached British broadcasting rules for the third time, Ofcom has ruled, after the broadcaster aired a political chat show in which two MPs were the presenters.

An Ofcom investigation today concluded that an episode of Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil, which aired on GB News on 11 March 2023, breached due impartiality rules.

The programme featured a pre-recorded interview between the two presenters Esther McVey and Philip Davies, who are married and both Conservative MPs, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt. The interview focused on the Government’s approach to economic and fiscal policies ahead of the Spring Budget, which was announced four days later.

Ofcom received 45 complaints from viewers who raised concerns that the programme had failed to preserve due impartiality. The regulator’s probe found that the interview, which covered the cost-of-living crisis, tax policy and economic forecasting, was “overwhelmingly reflective of viewpoints of different strands of opinion within the Conservative Party.”

“There were only very limited references to wider perspectives on UK economic and fiscal policy in the context of the forthcoming budget,” Ofcom said. “For example, no real attention was given anywhere in the programme to the viewpoints of politicians, political parties, organisations or individuals that either, for example, criticised, opposed or put forward policy alternatives to the viewpoints given by the three Conservative politicians.”

Ofcom ruled that GB News broke Rules 5.11 and 5.12, which require that an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in such programmes, or in clearly linked and timely programmes.

This is the third breach of UK broadcasting rules recorded against GB News since it launched in June 2021.

Ofcom confirmed today it has six further investigations open into the channel’s compliance with our due impartiality rules:

Four of the investigations involve GB News’ use of politicians as presenters: McVey and Hammond as well as former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg. Ofcom said it has also enlisted a research agency to gauge current audience attitudes towards programmes which feature politicians as presenters. A report is due “in the coming months”.

GB News said the company is “disappointed” with the ruling and that Ofcom’s definition of ‘due impartiality’ is “imprecise”.

In a statement, it said: “We note that Ofcom acknowledges that our programme was current affairs, not news, and that it did not breach any rules relating to politicians presenting news programmes.”

“Our programme featured a range of views from our audience, and from two business owners who offered different perspectives on how the issues would affect them.”

Nick Drew, CEO, Fuse Insights, on 18 Sep 2023
“Question: what is the next step from Ofcom in terms of censure etc? Three breaches in 2 years suggest that any idea of "...and don't do it again" isn't really working; but what do Ofcom's regulations have as possible applicable enforcement actions?”

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