GB News ‘begins legal challenge’ against Ofcom rulings

GB News says it is beginning a challenge against Ofcom after the broadcasting regulator warned the channel that it is considering enforcement methods that could include a fine or revoking its licence.

The media regulator ruled that GB News broke broadcasting due impartiality rules on the show following the airing of the programme, People’s Forum: The Prime Minister, where Rishi Sunak was questioned by the public.

Ofcom said it did not feature an “appropriately wide range of significant viewpoints” and called compliance by the channel “wholly insufficient”.

Prime Minister’s Questions
A GB News programme featuring Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was found to have broken due impartiality rules (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A statement from GB News on Wednesday said: “GB News has begun the formal legal process of challenging recent Ofcom decisions which go against journalists’ and broadcasters’ rights to make their own editorial judgements in line with the law and which also go against Ofcom’s own rules.

“Ofcom is obliged by law to uphold freedom of expression. Ofcom is also obliged to apply its rules fairly and lawfully. We believe that, for some time now, Ofcom has been operating in the exact opposite manner.

“We cannot allow freedom of expression and media freedom to be trampled on in this way.

“Freedom of the press is a civil right established by the British in the 17th century with the abolition of censorship and licensing of the printing press.

“We refuse to stand by and allow this right to be threatened. As the People’s Channel, we champion this freedom; for our viewers, for our listeners, for everyone in the United Kingdom.”

The channel has not explained how it will challenge Ofcom or what rulings that it is objecting against when asked by the PA news agency.

There is a formal process where broadcasters can challenge an Ofcom decision through the Competition Appeals Tribunal.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “We stand by our decision.”

Earlier this year, GB News was placed on notice that any repeated breaches of due impartiality rules “may result in the imposition of a statutory sanction” following three Tory MPs being found to have broken rules on politicians “acting as newsreaders”.

Lord Lawson Service of Thanksgiving
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a GB News presenter and MP (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The watchdog said on Monday it was starting the “process for consideration of a statutory sanction against GB News” following a “serious and repeated breach” of the rules.

This could mean the channel being fined up to the maximum financial penalty of £250,000 or 5% of the broadcaster’s revenue, or having its licence shortened or revoked along with having to broadcast a correction or not to re-air the programme.

In March, Ofcom said GB News violated due impartiality rules after some programmes featuring former House of Commons leader Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, minister without portfolio Esther McVey and backbencher Philip Davies, a married couple who are no longer part of the GB News line-up.

That same month, the regulator found that “misogynistic” comments by actor turned campaigner Laurence Fox about female journalist Ava Evans on GB News’ Dan Wootton Tonight broke broadcasting rules.

GB News had earlier apologised for the remarks, and Ofcom said at the time it has “significant concerns about GB News’ editorial control of its live output”.