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No punishment for GB News after violating Ofcom rules

A still frame from a program aired by GB News. (Courtesy image)
A still frame from a program aired by GB News. (Courtesy image)

Five television programs aired by upstart channel GB News were found to have violated Britain’s news impartiality rules, according to media regulators there.

On Monday, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) said the five programs were hosted by conservative members of parliament (MPs), and that it was “deeply concerned” by the channel’s use of sitting politicians to host news and current affairs programs.

Under British media regulations, sitting politicians are not allowed to deliver news reports or otherwise act as television journalists. Additionally, news programs are expected to air segments that are not aligned with any political party or movement.

The five programs that were found to violate Ofcom’s rules include a May 9 broadcast in which MP Jacob Rees-Mogg covered the verdict in a civil case involving former U.S. President Donald Trump and a broadcast three days later in which two MPs discussed the sentencing of a teenager who was convicted of terrorism-related offenses.

During the shows, the politicians “acted as newsreaders, news interviewers or news reporters in sequences which clearly constituted news, including reporting breaking news events, without exceptional justification.”

There will be no financial penalty or other sanction for the rules violations, Ofcom said, but additional violations could lead to a fine or the revocation of GB News’ broadcast license.

In a statement, officials with GB News said they were “deeply concerned” by Ofcom’s findings and would address the matter with the regulator.

“Ofcom is obliged by law to promote free speech and media plurality, and to ensure that alternative voices are heard,” a spokesperson for GB News said in a statement, adding that the network viewed the decision on Monday to be ” a chilling development for all broadcasters, for freedom of speech, and for everyone in the United Kingdom.”

Executives at GB News affirmed the channel will continue to employ sitting politicians as commentators. Privately, some high-level managers encouraged staffers to follow Ofcom’s rules more closely.

The decision on Monday is the latest involving Ofcom and GB News. Last December, Ofcom said an episode of “The Live Desk” that encouraged viewers to sign a petition violated its impartiality rules. Three months earlier, Ofcom took GB News to task for airing an interview with MP Jeremy Hunt, which was conducted by two fellow conservative MPs.

Last month, Ofcom said it was also probing a forum conducted with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after receiving more than 100 complaints about the show. That matter is still pending.

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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 10 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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