Ofcom Reaches Decision Over GB News Broadcast Featuring Rishi Sunak

The TV watchdog previously said GB News was "on notice" after breaching guidelines on more than one occasion.
Rishi Sunak live on GB News earlier this year
Rishi Sunak live on GB News earlier this year
GB News

Ofcom has ruled that GB News broke guidelines around impartiality with a broadcast involving prime minister Rishi Sunak earlier this year.

Back in February, Sunak held what was billed as a “people’s forum” in which he answered questions from undecided voters in County Durham in a much-derided live broadcast.

A week after it aired, it was revealed that more than 500 viewers had complained to Ofcom about the segment, which led to an investigation.

On Monday morning, the media regulator confirmed that GB News did, in fact, break impartiality guidelines by not incorporating a more “wide range of significant views” into what was technically a news broadcast.

In a statement on their website, they explained: “Ofcom has no issue with this programme’s editorial format in principle. In line with freedom of expression, broadcasters are free to innovate and use different editorial techniques in their programming – including offering audiences innovative forms of debate. But in doing so, they must observe the rules in our Broadcasting Code.

“We recognised that this programme would focus mainly on the Conservative Party’s policies and track-record on a number of specific issues, meaning that Conservative viewpoints would be prevalent. We are clear that this, in and of itself, did not mean the programme could not comply with due impartiality rules under the Code.

“It was incumbent on GB News, however, given the major matters under discussion, to ensure that an appropriately wide range of significant views was given due weight in the programme or in other clearly linked and timely programmes.”

GB News could now face sanctions due to this breach, with Ofcom adding: “Given the very high compliance risks this programme presented, we found GB News’s approach to compliance to be wholly insufficient, and consider it could have, and should have, taken additional steps to mitigate these risks.

“We found that an appropriately wide range of significant viewpoints were not presented and given due weight in the People’s Forum: The Prime Minister, nor was due impartiality preserved through clearly linked and timely programmes.

“As a result, we consider that the Prime Minister had a mostly uncontested platform to promote the policies and performance of his Government in a period preceding a UK General Election.”

This is far from the first time that GB News has been in hot water with Ofcom, though.

Last year, it faced another investigation due to a live broadcast which saw Laurence Fox launching into a sexist tirade against a female journalist during an appearance on Dan Wootton’s evening show.

In response to Ofcom’s latest decision, a GB News spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “Ofcom’s finding against GB News today is an alarming development in its attempt to silence us by standing in the way of a forum that allows the public to question politicians directly.

“The regulator’s threat to punish a news organisation with sanctions for enabling people to challenge their own prime minister strikes at the heart of democracy at a time when it could not be more vital.”
It went on to claim that their live programme gave an “gave an independently selected group of undecided voters the freedom to challenge the Prime Minister” and that they “cannot fathom” how Ofcom came to their conclusion.
They say the ruling should “terrifying anyone” who believes the “media’s role is to give a voice to the people of the United Kingdom”.
GB News’ statement concluded by saying: “We are proud to be the People’s Channel and we will never stop fighting for the right of everyone in the UK, whatever their political persuasion, to have their perspective heard.”
A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak has said:

“Ofcom is an independent regulator and the ruling on GB News’ approach to compliance is one for GB News.

“The PM undertakes interviews with a range of broadcast outlets and other media. And media appearances such as this are an important part of the free press and the democratic process.”
This article has been updated to include both Rishi Sunak and GB News’ response to Ofcom’s ruling.
Close

What's Hot