The regulator’s investigation concluded that an episode of Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil, which aired on GB News on March 11, failed to “represent and give due weight to an appropriately wide range of significant views on a matter of major political controversy and current public policy.”
The right-leaning news network therefore breached rules 5.11 and 5.12 of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code on impartiality, following 45 complaints.
This is the third time GB News has breached Ofcom’s rules but the first regarding the controversial move to have politicians present topical shows and interview other politicians. There are six more investigations of this ilk currently open.
In the show found in breach, McVey and Davies, members of the ruling Conservative Party, interviewed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt about the upcoming Spring Budget.
“This programme was presented by two sitting MPs from one political party,” Ofcom said. “It featured them interviewing the Chancellor of the same political party about a matter of major political controversy and current public policy. In our view, in these circumstances, the Licensee should have taken additional steps to ensure that due impartiality was preserved.”
Ofcom therefore found that the show “did not include an appropriately wide range of significant views, for example those that either criticised, opposed or put forward policy alternatives to the viewpoints given by the three Conservative Party politicians, on a matter of major political controversy and current public policy.”
Having spoken at length with GB News in putting together the investigation, the regulator stressed that it had “taken careful account of the broadcaster’s and audience’s rights of freedom of expression.”
“For all the reasons set out, we found that GB News failed to preserve due impartiality in this programme,” it added.
The completed probe is one of seven being examined by Ofcom. Most of the others also relate to impartiality and many involve politicians such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Laurence Fox hosting topical shows. McVey and Davies are being investigated for two other breaches, one of which is being looked at for the presenters acting as newsreaders due to a discussion of issues relating to a teenager who was being sentenced for terrorism offenses, while the other featured an interview with a leading candidate for Conservative London mayor over the Ultra Low Emission Zone debate. “We are working to conclude these investigations as swiftly as possible in accordance with our published procedures,” said an Ofcom spokeswoman.
The first two GB News breaches were over Covid misinformation remarks made by presenters Naomi Wolf and Mark Steyn. Following the second one, GB News bosses were summoned to meet the regulator.