GB News is being investigated for four further potential breaches of impartiality rules, as the media regulator Ofcom struggles with the rightwing channel’s willingness to push the boundaries of British broadcasting rules.
GB News has repeatedly shown itself willing to challenge the broadcasting code, mocking Ofcom’s investigations on air and airing presenters who suggest Ofcom are guilty of hypocrisy and are targeting the channel.
There are already three Ofcom investigations taking place into GB News’s use of the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg as a presenter during a breaking news story, the channel’s campaign against contactless payments, and a potential breach of impartiality rules over allowing two Tory MPs to interview the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.
The four fresh investigations relate to various allegations over a 35-day period earlier this year.
The first relates to an episode of Friday Morning with Esther and Phil, which aired on 12 May. During the programme, which is hosted by husband-and-wife Conservative MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies, the duo discussed the story of a teenager who was being sentenced for terrorism offences.
Ofcom rules ban serving politicians from acting as news presenters, interviewers or reporters on television and radio stations, unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, politicians are allowed to host discussions about current affairs – with the difference between the two often hard to define. The media regulator will now examine whether McVey and Davies broke this rule.
Ofcom also said it was investigating two other programmes under the same “politicians as presenters” rule. This includes Rees-Mogg’s show on 13 June, which covered a stabbing incident in Nottingham, and another programme presented by McVey and Davies on 13 May. The latter featured an interview with Howard Cox, the Reform UK party’s candidate for the London mayoral election, speaking live from a protest against the capital’s ultra-low emission zone. Ofcom will also assess whether McVey and Davies breached rules requiring news to be presented with due impartiality.
Finally, the media regulator said it would investigate a programme presented by the former Loaded editor Martin Daubney on 16 June, which included a discussion about small boats crossing the Channel and featured an interview with Richard Tice, the leader of Reform UK. Ofcom will examine whether the channel met the requirement to include “an appropriately wide range of significant views” given it was discussing a topic of significant national political controversy.
The channel has previously said all staff have been sent on Ofcom training after its former presenter Mark Steyn was found to have breached rules.
GB News had a troubled start and continues to require substantial subsidy from its financial backers, while its ratings remain relatively low for a national television channel. Yet it is continuing to grow and is challenging longer-established outlets that carry less opinionated comment. It is also far ahead of Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV, which pursued a similar model and spent big on hiring star presenter Piers Morgan but has struggled to connect with audiences.
As a result GB News is increasingly influential with potential Tory leadership candidates keen to appear on the channel. The Tory MP Caroline Dinenage, the chair of the select committee that scrutinises the British television industry, recently hosted a drinks event for the channel in parliament.
The GB News presenter Dan Wootton continues to host a weekday evening show despite being suspended from his other job at MailOnline. He has claimed he is the victim of “dark forces” trying to bring down the channel.