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Ofcom says GB News program in violation of impartiality rules

An episode of “The Live Desk” on upstart political affairs channel GB News violated British television regulations regarding impartiality in news programs, the government’s media watchdog Ofcom said this week.

The broadcast on July 7 is one of six being scrutinized by Ofcom for violations of the same regulation, which requires news broadcasters to provide all points of view as possible when covering matters of political interest.

The impartiality rule is designed to ensure broadcasters do not leverage their position of scale to advance certain political positions that could be to their benefit, according to Ofcom. The rules apply even when it is not clear that a broadcaster’s position on a matter is to their benefit.

In this instance, the broadcast urged viewers to sign a petition that calls on the British government to preserve cash as a legal tender option through at least 2050. The Desk reported in July that Ofcom was investigating the petition as possibly violating its impartiality rules after receiving numerous complaints from the public.

“We found that, at the time of broadcast, preserving access to cash, including whether to mandate its acceptance, was a matter of political controversy and a matter of current public policy,” a spokesperson for Ofcom wrote in a news release. “We took into account, among other things, that this issue was a matter of political debate as the Financial Services and Markets Bill passed through Parliament, before receiving Royal Assent on June 29, 2023, four days before GB News launched its campaign. The stated aim of GB News’s campaign and petition was to call for legislative change, representing an attempt to influence Government policy.”

Ofcom said it was clear that GB News and its parent company “clearly endorsed the campaign” by, among other things, prominently displaying a QR code that linked viewers to the petition in question, which was “promoted across GB News programming.”

“We also found that the program failed to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of this matter, with only limited references to different perspectives,” the Ofcom spokesperson said.

The probe against the Live Desk is one of six investigations concerning the same cash-as-tender petition. Ofcom said it would release the outcomes of its other five investigations “in due course,” but did not provide a concrete timeline.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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