Spineless Ofcom just let GB News off the hook over Tory MPs moonlighting as journalists

Ofcom GB News
Support us and go ad-free

Ofcom has found that a GB News show presented by two Tory MPs breached its impartiality rules. However, the regulator only scolded the far-right media outlet over it not airing differing views. Ofcom failed to rule against the fact that two sitting Conservative MPs were posing as journalists interviewing a sitting Conservative minister.

Ofcom rules GB News has been very naughty

As Ofcom tweeted:

The regulator’s investigation concerned the GB News show Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil. It’s presented by Tory MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies. On 11 March, they interviewed chancellor Jeremy Hunt. The discussion was around the Spring Budget and economic and fiscal policies.

Ofcom noted:

that in discussing these matters, the programme was overwhelmingly reflective of the 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…

In addition, there were no clear, editorial linkages made in this programme to any other content which might have contained these views.

That is: Tories were interviewing a Tory, and offering no alternative views.

Ofcom said this breached its code around:

due weight to an appropriately wide range of significant views on a matter of major political controversy and current public policy within this programme, in breach of Rules 5.11 and 5.12.

‘Flagrantly breaching impartiality rules’

People on X (formerly known as Twitter) had mixed reactions. One person pointed out that Ofcom has been rather busy dealing with GB News:

Someone else thought Ofcom had been too slow to act:

Meanwhile, Des Freedman of the Media Reform Coalition pointed out that part of GB News‘s problem wasn’t just isolated to it:

That said, many people on X welcomed Ofcom’s decision:

However, there is a problem with Ofcom’s decision. Some people thought it was over the fact that two Tory MPs were interviewing another Tory MP. Dr Matt Walsh of the government-backed media regulator IMPRESS clearly didn’t read the Ofcom ruling properly before posting on X:

He’s wrong – because Ofcom specifically didn’t rule against GB News over the Tory MP presenter issue. It noted:

The content presented on this day by Ms McVey and Mr Davies constituted current affairs. We therefore considered that Rule 5.3 of the Code, which relates to politicians presenting news programmes, was not engaged in this particular case.

So, on a technicality over what constitutes “news” and what constitutes “current affairs”, GB News got away with it. Ofcom did say that it’s got an “expert research agency” doing “qualitative research” on the MPs posing as journalists issue. In other words, someone’s probably running an opinion poll somewhere.

Ofcom: as mighty as a drain fly

The problem here isn’t the fact GB News is a screeching, far-right foghorn amplifier. Every media outlet in the UK has some sort of political bias. This includes broadcast media, even though this is subject to statutory regulation, where print/digital media isn’t. C4 News, for example, is quite openly centre left in its editorial stance.

At the Canary we’ve never claimed to be impartial. We’re varying shades of left wing – and openly shout about it. The Sun and Daily Mail are openly racist, homophobic, right-wing shitrags. However, they and we are private entities, and that’s our right in the UK. The one exception to all this is the BBC, as it’s publicly funded – even if, as the Canary has consistently documented, it repeatedly fails to act impartially of the state.

However, while GB News can present its programming with whatever ideological stand point it wishes, it should not be allowing sitting politicians to do it. It is effectively giving MPs a platform to campaign on, without any of the restrictions of campaigning. GB News is letting the Tories dress party political broadcasting up as journalism – when it is nothing more than thinly-veiled propaganda for their party.

This is the part that’s unacceptable. The UK’s democracy is already a shambolic farce, which has become increasingly worse in recent years. Allowing sitting MPs to present news programmes is the thin end of the wedge. Ofcom, with all the might of a drain fly, is failing to act quickly enough to stop this practice before even more damage is done.

Feature image via GB News – YouTube

Support us and go ad-free

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us