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Ofcom Accuses GB News of Violating Impartiality Rules in Jeremy Hunt Interviews

The television channel GB News has violated Ofcom’s impartiality rules when two Conservative MPs, who are married to each other, conducted an interview with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

GB News has received a reprimand from Ofcom for breaching impartiality regulations when two Conservative MPs, who jointly host a program and are married to each other, interviewed Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, earlier this year.

This marks the third time that GB News has violated impartiality rules since its launch two years ago.

According to a (pdf) on Ofcom’s website, the episode of “Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil” on March 11, 2023, which aired four days before Mr. Hunt presented his Spring Budget, was deemed a breach of impartiality.

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The program is hosted by Conservative MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies, and they interviewed a prominent figure from their own party.

In its ruling, Ofcom stated, “Our investigation found … that in discussing these matters, the program predominantly reflected the perspectives of different factions within the Conservative Party.”

‘Limited References to Wider Perspective’

“It provided only minimal references to broader viewpoints on UK economic and fiscal policy in the context of the upcoming budget. For example, the program failed to include any significant attention to the viewpoints of politicians, political parties, organizations, or individuals who criticized, opposed, or presented alternative policies to those espoused by the three Conservative politicians,” it added.

Ofcom also stated, “Considering that this program featured two sitting MP presenters from a single political party conducting an interview with the Chancellor of the same political party on a subject of major political controversy and current public policy, we believe that GB News should have taken additional measures to ensure the preservation of due impartiality.”

Last month, it was revealed that GB News is under investigation by Ofcom on multiple counts, including an episode of Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg’s show “State Of The Nation.”

Ofcom reported that it received 45 complaints regarding the Jeremy Hunt interview, which focused on the government’s fiscal policy prior to the Spring Budget.

The regulator acknowledged that “broadcasters are free to determine the editorial approach of their programs” in accordance with the right to freedom of expression.

Ofcom stated, “However, we find it essential for current affairs programs to be able to discuss and analyze contentious issues and take a stance on those matters. But in doing so, broadcasters must abide by the rules set forth in the Broadcasting Code.”

Under rules 5.11 and 5.12 of the code, current affairs programs are required to include and give due weight to a “sufficiently wide range of significant perspectives.”

According to Ofcom, this is the third violation of impartiality rules by GB News since its launch in June 2021, and the channel currently has six ongoing investigations into its compliance with impartiality rules.

GB News was initially described as “anti-impartiality news” in a column in The Guardian, but its CEO Angelos Frangopoulos, a former chief executive of Sky News Australia, stated that it aims to “add diversity to the UK media” and serve communities in Britain that feel underrepresented by mainstream television, particularly outside of London.

GB News Claims Impartiality Definition is ‘Vague’

In response to Ofcom’s latest ruling, GB News expressed disappointment and stated, “We believe that the regulator’s definition of ‘due impartiality’ is vague.”

The network also stated, “Ofcom’s finding acknowledges that our program included ‘reference to a wider range of views’ during the interview with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt prior to his budget presentation in March. These included opinions from independent journalist and commentator Michael Crick and SDP politician Patrick O’Flynn, who disagreed with Mr. Hunt on several key points.”

GB News also emphasized, “Our program featured a range of perspectives from our audience, as well as from two business owners who offered different views on how the issues would impact them. Our two presenters, both Conservative MPs, also challenged Mr. Hunt.”

“GB News chose to be regulated by Ofcom, and we are proud to play our part in bringing a wider range of opinion to Britain’s media landscape. We take compliance seriously, and we believe our programme embraces this. We will reflect on Ofcom’s view,” the statement concluded.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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