GB News shows hosted by Tory MPs broke impartiality rules, says Ofcom

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg sits at the desk as he presents on GB News

GB News breached impartiality rules by allowing Tory MPs to act as news readers on the right-wing channel’s programmes, broadcast regulator Ofcom said. 

While politicians are allowed to host TV programmes about current affairs, the watchdog found the channel broke rules banning politicians from acting as a “newsreader, news interviewer or news reporter” on five occasions.

This incidents took place during episodes featuring Conservative MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg, Esther McVey and Philip Davies that were broadcast in May and June 2023.

Broadcasting code states that news, in whatever form, must be presented with due impartiality. As a result, a politician cannot present the news or act as a news reporter without “exception justification”. 

“Politicians have an inherently partial role in society and news content presented by them is likely to be viewed by audiences in light of that perceived bias,” Ofcom said. 

“In our view, the use of politicians to present the news risks undermining the integrity and credibility of regulated broadcast news.”

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GB News could face a statutory sanction if it breaches the rules again, which could involve a financial penalty or having its license suspended or revoked.

In response, GB News called Ofcom’s decision a “chilling development for all broadcasters, for freedom of speech and for everyone in the United Kingdom”.

The channel vowed to raise these ‘deeply concerning’ issues with Ofcom directly “in the strongest possible terms”. 

“Ofcom is obliged by law to promote free speech and media plurality, and to ensure that alternative voices are heard,” GB News said. 

GB News is facing several Ofcom investigations over its content

In February, Ofcom announced it was investigating an episode of People’s Forum that featured prime minister Rishi Sunak over impartiality concerns. The programme saw Sunak, who was the sole guest, take questions from a live audience on a variety of issues. 

The watchdog said it was looking into if the programme breached due impartiality rules by failing to include other political views outside of Sunak, who is the leader of the Conservative Party. 

The watchdog received over 500 complaints about the programme. 

Just a few weeks later, on 4 March, Ofcom found Laurence Fox’s “misogynistic” remarks on a 2023 episode of Dan Wootton Tonight broke broadcasting rules. 

During the episode, Fox asked what “self-respecting man” would “climb into bed” with reporter Ava Evans while presenter Wootton just smiled. 

Ofcom said the segment – which generated over 8,800 complaints – broke broadcasting rules “designed to protect viewers from offensive content” as it “constituted a highly personal attack” on Evans. 

The regulator added the remarks were “degrading and demeaning both to Ms Evans and women generally and were clearly and unambiguously misogynistic”. 

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