Ofcom starting process for consideration of statutory sanction against GB News

Ofcom is “starting the process for consideration of a statutory sanction against GB News” following a programme featuring Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The media watchdog ruled that the show, which saw Mr Sunak take questions from the audience during a live hour-long programme called People’s Forum: The Prime Minister, broke broadcasting due impartiality rules on Monday.

The body also said that the programme, which aired on February 12, did not have an “appropriately wide range of significant viewpoints” and compliance by GB News was “wholly insufficient”.

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Ofcom said the episode received a total of 547 complaints (Yui Mok/PA)

Ofcom said the episode received a total of 547 complaints and was “presented in the context of the forthcoming UK general election”.

It said there was “no issue with this programme’s editorial format in principle”.

Ofcom stated: “Given this represents a serious and repeated breach of these rules, we are now starting the process for consideration of a statutory sanction against GB News.”

The media watchdog also said: “We recognised that this programme would focus mainly on the Conservative Party’s policies and track record on a number of specific issues, meaning that Conservative viewpoints would be prevalent.

“We are clear that this, in and of itself, did not mean the programme could not comply with due impartiality rules under the code.

“It was incumbent on GB News, however, given the major matters under discussion, to ensure that an appropriately wide range of significant views was given due weight in the programme or in other clearly linked and timely programmes.”

Ofcom also said that GB News should have taken “additional steps to mitigate” risks because of the “very high compliance” needed.

“We consider that the Prime Minister had a mostly uncontested platform to promote the policies and performance of his Government in a period preceding a UK General Election,” the media watchdog said.

“We have therefore recorded a breach of rules 5.11 and 5.12 of the Broadcasting Code against GB News.”

The rules state that “due impartiality must be preserved on matters of major political and industrial controversy” and there should be “an appropriately wide range of significant views” included.

In a statement, GB News accused Ofcom of trying to “silence” the channel by not allowing the “public to question politicians directly”.

“The regulator’s threat to punish a news organisation with sanctions for enabling people to challenge their own prime minister strikes at the heart of democracy at a time when it could not be more vital,” it also said.

GB News also called itself the “people’s channel” and said the “independently selected group of undecided voters” questioned Mr Sunak “robustly, intelligently, and freely”.

The channel also said that the Ofcom ruling was a “watershed moment that should terrify anyone who believes, as we do, that the media’s role is to give a voice to the people of the United Kingdom”.