GB News complaints: Ofcom launch four more investigations into right wing channel over impartiality concerns
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The decision to bring a slice of the Conservative backbenches onto the GB News front bench has raised eyebrows across the rest of the media, and provoked concern over impartiality regulations.
Sitting MPs are allowed to present TV and radio programmes, excluding news programmes unless it is editorially justified, according to broadcasting regulator Ofcom. And don’t let GB News’ title fool you, the channel claims that the politicians in its employ present current affairs, not news programmes.
This, despite the fact that GB News’ own synopsis for Jacob Rees-Mogg's State Of The Nation programme reads: ‘Join Jacob for his unique and unmissable take on the day's news.’
It may come as little surprise, then, that Ofcom has launched four new investigations into GB News, all of which are over concerns that impartiality rules have been broken by the channel.
Why is Ofcom investigating GB News again?
Three of the investigations concern Conservative MPs acting as news presenters in episodes of their shows.
One investigation is into Esther McVey and Phil Davies’ morning show which aired on 12 May 2023. The pair, who have spent a combined 29 years as Conservative MPs, discussed a teenager who was being sentenced for terrorism offences.
The couple are also being investigated for another episode that aired the next morning during which they interviewed Howard Cox, a Reform UK Party candidate for the London Mayoral Election, who was speaking from a protest against the capital’s ultra-Low Emission Zone.
An episode of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation which aired on 13 June 2023 is also being investigated to determine whether Mogg acted as a newsreader when discussing a stabbing in Nottingham.
Ofcom are also investigating GB News over an issue that does not concern a politician-presenter. The watchdog will probe an episode of Laurence Fox’s show which aired on 16 June 2023, and was guest presented by Martin Daubney. During the episode, Daubney discussed immigration and asylum policy and interviewed the leader of Reform UK, Richard Tice.
Whilst Daubney is not a politician, he could still be found in breach of the Ofcom code if he is found not to have given due impartiality on a major political issue. Due impartiality generally implies a requirement to include a wide range of opinion, but other party representatives were not featured in the segment.
How many politicians work as GB New presenters?
Currently, four sitting Conservative MPs have presenting slots on GB News - Lee Anderson takes home £100,000 a year for his weekly programme, Jacob Rees-Mogg (technically a ‘sir’), is paid just over £32,000 a month for his Monday-Thursday evening show, and power couple Philip Davies and Esther McVey co-present a Friday and Saturday morning show and are paid roughly £320 and £164 per hour respectively for their work.
The channel has also become a haven for former politicians of a right wing bent. One of its most prolific presenters is Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP and later the Brexit Party, and the man who claimed he would ‘go and live abroad’ if Brexit proves to be a disaster. He appears on the channel Mondays-Thursdays at 7pm.
Martin Daubney, a former Brexit Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and former Apprentice contestant Michelle Dewberry, who stood as a Brexit candidate for Hull West and Hessle in 2019, taking 18% of the vote, are also on the GB News roster.
Arlene Foster, former First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the DUP, a conservative Northern Irish party which entered into a partnership with the Conservatives in 2017, when Foster was still leader of the party, is another haunt of the GB News corridors.
Michael Portillo was a Conservative MP from 1984 to 1997 - the loss of his seat presaged the Labour landslide under Tony Blair. Now known more for his heritage documentaries than his politics, he nevertheless represents a further right winger on GB News’s bench.
Gloria De Piero represents a lonely faction at the station, flying the flag as the only former Labour MP now appearing on air at the channel.
The list of former on-air staff who also dabble in politics consists of Brexit Party MEP Alex Phillips, sitting Conservative MP Dehenna Davison, and former Labour MP Caroline Flint.