GB News will not investigate claims against presenter Dan Wootton

GB News has said it will not investigate claims of inappropriate behaviour made against star presenter Dan Wootton because none of the accusations relate to his work for the channel.

Wootton, who has a nightly show on the rightwing news channel, has been accused of using a pseudonym to solicit explicit images from former colleagues at the Sun over many years. The presenter has not directly denied the allegations but says he is the victim of a smear campaign by unknown forces who want to shut down his political views.

The GB News chief executive, Angelos Frangopoulos, told the culture select committee he is monitoring “serious allegations” against his primetime presenter but “none of these allegations have been admitted or proved by an independent body”.

In a letter, the GB News boss acknowledged that the Sun is investigating Wootton’s conduct relating to his time with the newspaper, while MailOnline has paused his column. “Were a formal complaint to be raised by a member of our staff, then GB News would, of course, take appropriate steps,” he said.

Frangopoulos also defended the station’s coverage of sexual assault and rape allegations against Russell Brand, arguing that “none of these have yet been admitted or proved by an independent body”. Brand has denied the allegations, saying all his relationships were consensual.

GB News presenter Bev Turner has come out strongly in support of Brand, suggesting the allegations against him may have been published because “he’s a threat to all these newspapers” and because of his anti-vaccine views.

One of the GB News presenters who hosted a discussion about Brand was Wootton, who warned on air about the risks of jumping to conclusions about people accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Wootton told viewers: “There’s been such a pile-on without [any] form of independent investigation.”

Frangopoulos insisted: “We provided a wide range of views and allowed our presenters to debate the matter fully. This is what is required by Ofcom regulations.”

Related: Will ‘close pals’ rally around Dan Wootton as he faces down catfishing allegations? He’d want that, surely | Marina Hyde

GB News was recently found to have breached impartiality rules by Ofcom and is the subject of several investigations. But the channel’s audience continues to grow and it claimed to be the most watched rolling news channel in the UK on Tuesday.

Analysis of official ratings by the agency Digital-i shows GB News is correct. The channel averaged 53,800 viewers throughout Wednesday – narrowly ahead of BBC News and Sky News. Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV was in a distant fourth place.

Despite this, the total audience reach – the number of people who watch any content in a given day – of BBC News and Sky News remains much higher than GB News. This suggests that while traditional news channels rely on larger numbers of viewers dipping in for short periods of time, GB News is attracting a smaller hardcore group of viewers who are watching constantly throughout the day.