An interview with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on GB News by two fellow Conservative MPs ahead of the spring budget breached impartiality rules, broadcast regulator Ofcom has said.
A pre-recorded interview with Mr Hunt by former pensions minister Esther McVey and backbencher Philip Davies was broadcast on their Saturday morning show in March prompting 45 complaints.
GB News said it was disappointed with the ruling and disagreed with Ofcom’s definition of due impartiality but added that it would “reflect on Ofcom’s view”.
Ofcom said GB News should have “taken additional steps to ensure that due impartiality was preserved” and found that “the programme was overwhelmingly reflective of the viewpoints of different strands of opinion within the Conservative Party”.
Following an investigation, we have found an episode of Good Morning with Esther and Phil on GB News, broke our due impartiality rules.
This episode featured a pre-recorded interview with the Chancellor, ahead of the spring budget.
— Ofcom (@Ofcom) September 18, 2023
It added: “There were only very limited references to wider perspectives on UK economic and fiscal policy in the context of the forthcoming budget.
“For example, no real attention was given anywhere in the programme to the viewpoints of politicians, political parties, organisations or individuals that either, for example, criticised, opposed or put forward policy alternatives to the viewpoints given by the three Conservative politicians.”
The married couple have presented a programme on the channel since 2021, including Friday Morning With Esther And Philip and the Saturday show.
During the interview, Tatton MP Ms McVey asked Mr Hunt if he was “embarrassed, ashamed” to have “the highest levels of taxation in modern history”.
Other Conservative political figures front programmes on GB News, including former cabinet member Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and deputy party chairman Lee Anderson.
Sir Jacob’s show is being investigated for allegedly twice breaching Ofcom’s “politicians as presenters” rule which means “no politician may be used as a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in any news programmes unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified”.
Ofcom investigated the Davies/McVey Chancellor interview under this rule but found no breach because it was deemed a current affairs show, not news.
But two of their programmes from May are still being investigated under the “politicians as presenters” rule.
The channel is also under investigation for two further alleged “due impartiality” breaches, one for its “Don’t Kill Cash” campaign and another for a show presented by Martin Daubney standing in for Lawrence Fox.
Ofcom’s ruling was the third breach by GB News since it launched in June 2021.
In a statement, the broadcaster said: “We are disappointed by Ofcom’s ruling on our programme, Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil. We feel that the regulator’s definition of ‘due impartiality’ is imprecise.”
It added: “Ofcom’s finding also accepts that our programme included ‘reference to a wider range of views’ in its interview with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of his budget in March.
“These included opinions from independent journalist and commentator Michael Crick and SDP politician Patrick O’Flynn, who disagreed with Mr Hunt on several key points.
“Our programme featured a range of views from our audience, and from two business owners who offered different perspectives on how the issues would affect them. Our two presenters, both Conservative MPs, also challenged Mr Hunt.
“GB News chose to be regulated by Ofcom, and we are proud to play our part in bringing a wider range of opinion to Britain’s media landscape.
“We take compliance seriously, and we believe our programme embraced this. We will reflect on Ofcom’s view.”