GB News Broke Impartiality Rules on Shows With Politicians as Presenters, U.K. Media Regulator Finds

U.K. media regulator Ofcom has found that five programs on the GB News channel featuring politicians as news presenters broke broadcasting due impartiality rules.

The investigation, which was launched last year, concluded that two episodes of “Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation,” hosted by the titular politician; two episodes of “Friday Morning With Esther and Phil,” featuring Esther McVey and Philip Davies; and one episode of “Saturday Morning With Esther and Phil,” broadcast during May and June 2023, failed to comply with Rules 5.1 and 5.3 of the Broadcasting Code. All three politicians are members of parliament representing the ruling Conservative party.

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“We found that host politicians acted as newsreaders, news interviewers or news reporters in sequences which clearly constituted news – including reporting breaking news events – without exceptional justification. News was, therefore, not presented with due impartiality,” Ofcom said.

“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. In our view, the use of politicians to present the news risks undermining the integrity and credibility of regulated broadcast news. We therefore considered it was necessary and proportionate to find a breach of Rules 5.1 and 5.3 in these circumstances,” Ofcom added.

The regulator also said that “GB News is put on notice that any repeated breaches of Rules 5.1 and 5.3 may result in the imposition of a statutory sanction.”

The channel has hit back against the decision.

A GB News spokesperson said: “We are deeply concerned by the decisions Ofcom has made today. We will raise this directly with the regulator 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. Its latest decisions, in some cases a year after the program aired, contravene those duties.”

“Extraordinarily, Ofcom has determined that a program which it acknowledges was impartial and lacking in any expression of opinion, still somehow breaches its impartiality rules just because an imaginary viewer might think otherwise,” the spokesperson added. “Ofcom has now arbitrarily changed the test so that it is no longer ‘Was it impartial?’ but ‘Could someone think it might not be?’ This is a chilling development for all broadcasters, for freedom of speech, and for everyone in the United Kingdom.”

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