The communications/broadcasting regulator Ofcom has delivered its verdict on two controversial GB News programmes. First up, it ruled against a show presented by former Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney, standing in for Laurence Fox.
However, it may as well have not bothered, given that it keeps letting the broadcaster off the hook over its penchant for Tory-on-Tory programming. In GB News’ most recent example, Tory MP Lee Anderson interviewed fellow Tory MP Suella Braverman. The regulator’s verdict? ‘Nothing to see here, guv!’
GB News: breaking impartiality rules once again
Ofcom once again ruled against GB News after looking into a show presented by ex-MEP Martin Daubney. He was interviewing the far-right Reform Party leader Richard Tice. They were (predictably) discussing immigration. The regulator classed the programme as ‘current affairs’. However, it found that:
Tice presented his views on immigration and asylum policy with insufficient challenge, and the limited alternative views presented in the programme were dismissed. The programme therefore did not include and give due weight to an appropriately wide range of significant views, as required by the Code.
According to Press Gazette, GB News has promised it will deliver more “training” to its staff. The broadcaster also claimed that such a lack of impartiality was contrary to its “policy and practice” – and it’s certainly had the practice. The ruling comes as Ofcom is still investigating 12 other complaints against GB News.
However, the regulator is still failing to address the issue of Tory MPs interviewing Tory MPs.
On 29 September, Tory Party deputy chairman Anderson interviewed Tory home secretary Braverman. Before the show even aired, people were complaining:
This is NOT permitted by @ofcom regulation.
Lee Anderson (deputy Tory chair) interviewing Suella Braverman (Home Secretary) on GB News
Time to complain before broadcast & RT? https://t.co/ZKG30FZ8Za
Lee Anderson Show – proposed broadcast
GB News… https://t.co/sPDC9XYt6w
— Carol Vorderman (@carolvorders) September 28, 2023
Predictably, people formally complained to Ofcom. However, the regulator has said that it’s not even going to investigate the programme. It stated that:
Having assessed the nature and format of the programme – which included the combination of a pre-recorded interview, in-depth studio analysis and panel discussion – we were satisfied it was a current affairs programme.
That is, because Anderson’s show wasn’t ‘news’, and it had pre-written statements and guests on it with opposing views, Ofcom says there’s no case to answer.
However, the guests GB News had on what Ofcom called a “panel discussion” were not challenging Braverman in person. It was a pre-recorded segment that came after her interview with Anderson. Moreover, throughout the show Anderson barely challenged Braverman – but did challenge his two other guests, who didn’t share his and the home secretary’s far-right views.
The regulator also addressed the issue of Tory-on-Tory interviews. It noted that:
Politicians are allowed to present current affairs programmes under our rules, providing they aren’t standing for election and that due impartiality is preserved.
Ofcom delivered a similar verdict in the case of Tory MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies interviewing Tory chancellor Jeremy Hunt. It did find that GB News had not presented a wide range of opinions on the episode – but it did nothing about the show being made up of three serving Tory politicians.
Ofcom: toothless and timid
All of this is a cop out. As the Canary previously wrote, GB News:
exists to act as a PR service for the hard-right wing of the Tory Party. The things it presents as current affairs are simply Conservative Party political broadcasts. Yet due to Ofcom’s own preposterously complex rules, the channel can get away with it.
So, Anderson and Braverman got off scot free because they presented other viewpoints on the show. However, this still doesn’t detract from the fact that when you have a Tory MP as a host, and a Tory minister as a main guest – the thrust of the programme is undoubtedly the right-wing worldview they wish to present. Moreover, what does it say about Ofcom that serving MPs are allowed to host news programmes – regardless of whether Ofcom calls them current affairs?
The regulator is failing to regulate this practice at all. It is allowing GB News to give Tory MPs unfettered access to broadcast TV, where they can present their worldviews as gospel – with only meekest of challenges. It stinks, and Ofcom needs to get a grip of the situation.
Featured image via GB News – YouTube
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