GB News hit with new Ofcom probes into use of ‘politicians as presenters’

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GB News has been hit with four separate investigations by the UK media watchdog including three probes into the right-leaning TV news channel’s use of politicians as presenters.

The move means the broadcaster, backed by hedge fund boss Paul Marshall, now faces seven separate investigations by Ofcom. The broadcasting code states that no politician may be a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in any news programme “unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified”. 

On Monday, the watchdog said that it was investigating three programmes under the “politicians as presenters” rule — including an episode of State of the Nation, fronted by Tory MP and former cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, which covered a stabbing incident in Nottingham.

It is also probing a Saturday morning show with Esther McVey and Philip Davies, both serving MPs, which featured an interview with Howard Cox, the Reform UK party’s candidate for next year’s London mayoral election. Ofcom said it was also assessing it under a separate rule, which requires that news must be presented with due impartiality.

Esther McVey and Philip Davies interviewing Howard Cox © GB News

Another edition of a show fronted by McVey and Davies that discussed a teenager who was being sentenced for terrorism offences is also being investigated.

The latest probes also include one looking at whether a show involving Martin Daubney, a former deputy leader of Laurence Fox’s Reclaim party, as a guest presenter, which included a discussion about immigration and asylum policy, met its requirements over due impartiality. 

Ofcom rules require that the show, which featured an interview with the leader of the political party Reform UK, Richard Tice, needs an “appropriately wide range of significant views included and given due weight”. 

Last month, Ofcom launched a probe into another edition of Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation that covered breaking news about former US president Donald Trump. It is also still investigating another episode of McVey and Davies’ show from earlier this year.

Other politicians have expressed concern about the growing use of politicians by channels such as GB News and Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV, which uses former minister Nadine Dorries as a presenter.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries on Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV

Tory MP Nadine Dorries on Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV © Talk TV

John Nicolson, a Scottish National party MP and member of the House of Commons media committee, in March warned of “a creeping politicisation and ‘Americanisation’ of news” in the UK. 

Earlier this year, Ofcom launched a study of audience attitudes towards the rise in the number of current affairs programmes presented by sitting politicians “to ensure our broadcasting rules remain relevant and effective”.

Angelos Frangopoulos, chief executive of GB News, told the Financial Times earlier this year that he wanted to make the lossmaking broadcaster the “mainstream” choice for news.

In May, Ofcom found GB News in breach of broadcasting rules for airing a programme in which US author Naomi Wolf compared the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to “mass murder”. 

Ofcom may impose a sanction if a broadcaster has seriously, deliberately, repeatedly or recklessly breached one of its requirements. Sanctions may include a direction not to repeat content; a direction to broadcast a correction or a statement of Ofcom’s findings; financial penalties or a shortening, suspension or revocation of a licence.

The record for the number of investigations being carried out at one time against a single broadcaster is held by the RT news channel, which faced 15 investigations into due impartiality of news programmes after the start of the war in Ukraine. Ofcom stripped the Russian state-backed television network of its licence last year.

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