All the times GB News has breached Ofcom rules

All the times GB News has breached Ofcom rules
Furious Briton rants at Rishi Sunak for more than one minute over …
GB News

The controversial right-wing news channel that is GB News has sparked backlash on many occasions since it launched back in June 2021, and sometimes, it’s even had a telling-off from the watchdog Ofcom for breaching its broadcasting regulations.

In the latest development, Ofcom has launched an investigation to see if People’s Forum: The Prime Minister on GB News breached impartiality rules.

The programme, which saw Prime Minister Rishi Sunak take questions from the public in a live Q&A on February 12, has prompted around 500 complaints.

In the regulator’s latest decision, Ofcom said on X: “We’ve opened a new due impartiality investigation into GB News.”

But this certainly isn’t the first time GB News has fallen foul of the TV rules over the years, and we’ve rounded them all up below:

To The Point, 2 March 2022:

Before it was ruffling Ofcom’s feathers on the small screen, GB News was found in breach of the regulator’s Broadcasting Code on the airwaves over its reporting on the Erdington by-election held in March 2022 (triggered after the passing of Labour MP Jack Dromey).

After a report on the election was aired on both TV and radio, a full list of candidates standing in the contest (required under Rule 6.10) was not given to those listening in on the radio.

“In its consideration of the licensee’s representations, Ofcom acknowledged that GB News Ltd said it believed that ‘minimal harm’ was caused to its audience, but did not consider that this was relevant to this case and the licensee’s compliance with special impartiality requirements in constituency reports during an election period.

“In all the circumstances, Ofcom did not consider it appropriate to record the breach of Rule 6.10 in this case as resolved,” the decision, published in November 2022, reads.

Mark Steyn, 21 April 2022:

The Canadian author’s show was first found in breach in March 2023, after an episode of the programme almost a year prior made “misleading” claims about the third ‘booster’ shot of the coronavirus vaccine.

Steyn told viewers: “There is only one conclusion from those [UK Health Security Agency] numbers, which is that the third booster shot, so zealously promoted by the British state and its groupthink media, has failed, and in fact exposed you to significantly greater risk to infection, hospitalisation and death.”

However, Ofcom ruled the comments were “misleading” because it did not consider “key factors” in the data “such as the significant differences in age or health” in two groups – those who had the booster and those who didn’t – and “failed to reflect” that the UKHSA itself said the data “should not be used to draw conclusions about vaccine efficacy” because of biases present in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

“Overall, we concluded that this factual programme may have resulted in viewers making important decisions about their health, and it was therefore potentially harmful and materially misleading.

“Ofcom has made clear that, in line with the right to freedom of expression, broadcasters are free to transmit programmes which may be considered controversial and challenging, and to question statistics or other evidence produced by government sources.

“However, this editorial freedom comes with the obligation on broadcasters to ensure that programmes comply with the Code and, in particular, that factual programmes must not materially mislead the audience,” Ofcom said.

Steyn had already resigned from GB News at this point, releasing a scathing video online in February 2023 in which he said: “I’m on the hook for Ofcom fines but I don’t have any say in our defence against an Ofcom complaint – that’s all done by GB News.

“Ofcom’s b****, as I call the compliance officer, will be making a weedy defence to Ofcom and then I’m the one who has to pay the £40,000 fine.”

Mark Steyn (again), 4 October 2022:

More than 420 complaints were received by Ofcom in relation to what complainants said were “dangerous” comments about the coronavirus vaccine that went “unopposed”.

Dr Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, appeared on Steyn’s programme to claim a “mass murder” had taken place as a result of the vaccine rollout which she compared to what “doctors in pre-Nazi Germany” were doing – a comment which GB News argued was “not excessive and a reasonable comparison” for Dr Wolf to make as a Jewish woman.

Yet, Ofcom concluded: “We found that comments made by Naomi Wolf had the potential to impact on viewers’ decisions about their health and were therefore potentially harmful.

“We were concerned that Naomi Wolf was given the opportunity to present her claims without challenge or other contextualisation, for example through other contributions in the programme or by the presenter who appeared to support many of her comments. There was also no scrutiny of the evidence she claimed to hold to support her claims.

“We concluded that the programme did not provide adequate protection to viewers from the potentially harmful content.”

Saturday Morning with Esther and Philip, 11 March 2023:

Impartiality is important in political broadcasting, and so when GB News decided to air an interview from two Conservative MPs chatting to Conservative chancellor Jeremy Hunt about Conservative policy (including the upcoming spring budget), Ofcom ruled the channel was taking the proverbial biscuit.

They said of the programme, helmed by Tory couple Esther McVey and Philip Davies: “Given this programme featured two sitting MP presenters from one political party interviewing the Chancellor of the same political party about a matter of major political controversy and current public policy, we consider, in these circumstances, that GB News should have taken additional steps to ensure that due impartiality was preserved.

“Our investigation therefore concluded that GB News failed to represent and give due weight to an appropriately wide range of significant views on a matter of major political controversy and current public policy within this programme.”

Laurence Fox, 16 June 2023:

Former Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney stood in for the Reclaim leader in this episode, in which he interviewed Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK about immigration and asylum policy as well as aired his own views on the contentious topic.

In this case, Ofcom ruled: “We found that Mr Tice presented his position on a matter of major political controversy and a major matter of current public policy with insufficient challenge, and the limited alternative views presented 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.”

GB News agreed the content was not in keeping with the Code’s special impartiality requirements, and Ofcom stated it expects GB News to “take careful account of this decision in its compliance of future programming”.

That didn’t last long…

The Live Desk, 7 July 2023:

In December, Ofcom found GB News’ promotion of the ‘Don’t Kill Cash’ campaign – which calls on the government to “introduce legislation to protect the status of cash as legal tender and as a widely accepted means of payment in the UK until at least 2050” – on The Live Desk did not uphold “due impartiality”.

That part of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code states such impartiality must be maintained when discussing matters of “political or industrial controversy and matters of current public policy” – something GB News argued the campaign was not.

“Ofcom found that by promoting the GB News-branded campaign, the views and opinions of GB News Ltd (the person providing the service) on the matter of whether to mandate the acceptance of cash were expressed, in breach of Rule 5.4.

“We took into account factors including that: GB News clearly endorsed the campaign; the QR code and messaging shown on-screen encouraged viewers to sign a petition calling for legislative change; and the campaign was promoted across GB News programming.

“We also found that the programme failed to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of this matter,” it said.

Then there’s the ones Ofcom is currently investigating…

Oh, but there could well be more breaches ahead, as Ofcom confirmed to indy100 it has 12 open investigations into GB News, looking into the following broadcasts/issues:

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation, 9 May 2023: This programme is being investigated under “broadcaster views/opinions and due impartiality” (politicians are not allowed to act as newsreaders, interviewers or reporters in any news programmes “unless editorially justified”), and featured Rees-Mogg breaking news about a jury verdict in Donald Trump’s sexual abuse and defamation trial brought by writer E Jean Carroll.
  • Friday Morning with Esther and Philip, 12 May 2023: The programme included a segment on a teenager being sentenced for terrorism offences, and is being investigated under “due impartiality” rules.
  • Saturday Morning with Esther and Philip, 13 May 2023: The programme is being investigated under “due impartiality” rules over its interview with Reform UK London mayoral candidate Howard Cox live from a demonstration against the capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zone.
  • The ‘Don’t Kill Cash’ Campaign: Other programmes investigated under the same impartiality rules as The Live Desk are Breakfast with Eamonn and Isabel (6 July 2023), Patrick Christys (6 July 2023) and Britain’s Newsroom (5 July and 11 July 2023).
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation, 13 June 2023: Another investigation under the ‘politicians as presenters’ rule, as the programme covered a stabbing in Nottingham.
  • Friday Morning with Esther and Philip, 23 June 2023: Investigated under “due impartiality”, the programme featured a discussion about the seventh anniversary of the Brexit vote with Jacob Rees-Mogg.
  • Dan Wootton Tonight, 18 July 2023: The programme, investigated under “fairness and privacy” rules, included a discussion about reports the Duchess of Sussex had concerns about the Duke of Sussex’s memoir Spare.
  • Dan Wootton Tonight, 26 September 2023: This concerns the comments Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox made about journalist Ava Evans, which saw Wootton suspended, and Fox and fellow contributor Calvin Robinson (who backed Wootton amid said suspension) sacked from the channel.

And the ones Ofcom found weren’t in breach or discontinued in some way:

  • Talking Pints, 23 August 2021:Nigel Farage’s interview with darts legend Bobby George was investigated for “offensive language”, but was not found to be in breach of Ofcom’s rules.
  • To The Point, 4 April 2022: Ofcom discontinued its investigation into the programme on the grounds of “fairness”. The show included a discussion around alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
  • Breakfast with Stephen and Ellie and Nana Akua, 23 July 2023: Both shows were looked into around “fairness”, but the investigation was discontinued.
  • Lee Anderson’s Real World, 29 September 2023: Despite telling off GB News for having Esther McVey and Philip Davies interview Jeremy Hunt, Ofcom did not pursue an investigation into the Ashfield MP’s interview of Suella Braverman on due impartiality because it included “an appropriately wide range of significant views on the major matter which were given due weight”.
  • Neil Oliver, 13 January 2024: The outspoken Oliver claimed on his show in January that a non-existent condition called 'turbo cancer' existed and Pfizer was developing treatments for it. Despite being not true, the watchdog said: "In line with freedom of expression, our rules allow broadcasters to cover controversial themes and topics. We recognise that these brief comments were the presenter’s personal view and did not materially mislead the audience."
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