GB News ‘disappointed’ by Ofcom ruling show breached due impartiality rules

A ruling issued on Monday found an episode of the network’s show The Live Desk on July 7 2023 broke two parts of the code on due impartiality.

Naomi Clarke
Monday 18 December 2023 12:53 GMT
The offices of Ofcom (Office of Communications) in Southwark, London.
The offices of Ofcom (Office of Communications) in Southwark, London. (PA Archive)

GB News has said it is “disappointed” by an Ofcom ruling that one of its programmes breached due impartiality rules by promoting the network’s Don’t Kill Cash campaign.

The media watchdog said the GB News-branded campaign called 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”.

A ruling issued on Monday found an episode of the network’s show The Live Desk on July 7 2023 broke two parts of the code on due impartiality, with the ruling on five further investigations outstanding.

The watchdog said broadcasters are “free to explore any issue, including the use of cash in society, in their programmes, and to encourage viewers to support particular campaigns”, but they must comply with due impartiality requirements.

It stated that within the code, all broadcasters’ programmes must “exclude all expressions of the views and opinions of the person providing the service on matters of political or industrial controversy or current public policy”.

Ofcom explained this is to safeguard the public against broadcasters using their channels to “advance their own views” on these topics.

It also said it received a number of complaints about the campaign, which was first launched on July 3 and was promoted throughout the summer months.

When investigating GB News’ campaign, the media watchdog said it found the topic was a matter of political controversy and current public policy at the time as the Financial Services and Markets Bill was being passed through Parliament in June.

It also ruled that the broadcaster “clearly endorsed” the campaign as it was promoted across GB News programming and a QR code and on-screen banners encouraged viewers to sign their petition calling for legislative change.

In addition, Ofcom stated the programme failed to achieve due impartiality as it offered “only limited references to different perspectives”.

It added: “We expect GB News to take careful account of this decision in its future programming.”

In response, GB News said in a statement: “We are disappointed by Ofcom’s ruling that our campaign to protect cash for society’s most financially vulnerable people was a breach of the Broadcasting Code.”

It added: “We disagree with Ofcom’s assertion that because the campaign was under the GB News banner, it represented the personal or self-interested view of anyone within the company. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“We maintain our campaign was not political and so did not consider it invoked due impartiality rules requiring substantially different views.

“The campaign received widespread support across the political spectrum.”

The broadcaster also stated that it believes Ofcom has interpreted its rules “extremely narrowly” in relation to the programme and that it is awaiting the response on five further investigations into the network’s Don’t Kill Cash promotion which remain active.

GB News has been found to be in breach of due impartiality on a number of occasions since it first launched in 2021.

In October, the broadcast watchdog ruled a programme presented by former Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney in which he discussed his views on immigration and asylum policy in the context of controversy over small boats crossing the English Channel was in breach.

An interview with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on the channel by two fellow Conservative MPs, former pensions minister Esther McVey and backbencher Philip Davies, ahead of the spring budget was also found to have breached impartiality rules.

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