GB News explains why Dan Wootton is still on air and defends Russell Brand coverage
GB News’ chief executive has revealed why Dan Wootton is still on air, despite ongoing investigations into his behaviour by both The Sun and Daily Mail where he has also worked.
The explanation came in correspondence between Angelos Frangopoulos and the chairwoman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Caroline Dinenage, after investigations were launched into presenter Wootton’s conduct over the past decade, following allegations by colleagues of inappropriate behaviour.
In July, the culmination of a three-year investigation by Byline Times resulted in Wootton being accused of bullying, misappropriating funds, overseeing a culture of sexual harassment at The Sun while he was an editor and of using fake online identities to trick men into sending him sexual images.
Wootton denies the claims.
In a letter to Dinenage dated Tuesday (19 September), Frangopoulos noted that “serious allegations have been made against Dan Wootton [but] none of these have been admitted or proved by an independent body” as far as the broadcaster is aware.
“GB News continues to monitor the situation,” he wrote. Were a formal complaint to be raised by a member of our staff, then GB News would, of course, take appropriate steps.”
Frangopoulos’ response followed a request from Dinenage – also dated Tuesday – that the channel “set out to [the committee] what, if any, investigations or processes have been undertaken since the recent complaints about Mr Wootton were publically raised”, as well as the policies available to all GB News staff if they raise concerns about conduct or culture at the organisation.
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Dinenage has previously requested an update from The Sun on their investigation.
Concern over GB News’ Russell Brand coverage
In her letter, the Tory MP also raised concerns about GB News’ coverage of the Russell Brand rape and sexual assault accusations.
“We are aware that, during the weekend of 16/17 September, GB News presenters opted to use their social media platforms to defend Russell Brand against accusations of rape and sexual assault,” Dinenage wrote.
“While GB News is not responsible for this content, it is concerning that Beverley Turner, who described Mr Brand as “a hero” and invited him to appear on her show, subsequently fronted GB News’ coverage of the allegations regarding Mr Brand on the morning of 18 September.”
While Turner’s views were challenged by co-presenter Andrew Pierce, the committee remains “concerned that having a presenter so clearly supporting an individual who is the subject of intense media coverage, including seeking their appearance on the show, undermines any perception of due impartiality in the broadcasting”, the letter went on to say.
Dinenage asked Frangopoulos to set out “your discussions with GB News presenters on their responsibilities on due impartiality and professionalism” when fronting news stories, alongside “any actions you intend to take”.
In his response, Frangopoulos defended the right-wing channel’s impartiality by saying it presents “multiple sides of debates across many topics”.
He wrote: “[While] it is important to us that presenters can debate matters openly, we maintain strict codes in order to comply with obligations of due impartiality and professionalism.
“We also publish our editorial charter on our website, have a comprehensive social media policy and provide regular training on legal and regulatory compliance to staff.”
Specifically addressing the Brand coverage, Frangopoulos said GB News “approached the topic in exactly the same manner as we would any other matter of public interest”, provided a range of views and allowed presenters to debate the topic – as is required by watchdog Ofcom regulations.
He echoed the phrasing used with regard to Wootton, adding: “Serious allegations have been made against Russell Brand. As far as we are aware, none of these have yet been admitted or proved by an independent body.
“We understand from reports that the police are investigating his conduct but, again, as far as we are aware, he has not been charged with any offence.”
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