News and opinion channel GB News found in breach of UK broadcasting rules for the third time with six further investigations over the channel’s output underway.
- An episode of Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil in March 2023 breached impartiality rules.
- Two serving MPs interviewed the Chancellor, of the same party. The discussion was found to only include different strands of opinion within the Conservative Party.
- Ofcom found “no real attention was given anywhere in the programme to the viewpoints of politicians, political parties, organisations or individuals” outside of the Conservative Party.
An Ofcom investigation has today concluded that the 11th March episode of Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil breached due impartiality rules. Ofcom’s investigation followed 45 complaints from viewers.
On the 11th March, the programme featured a pre-recorded interview between the two presenters, who are both sitting MPs and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt MP.
The programme’s interview with the Chancellor and the panel discussions which followed concerned the Government’s approach to a range of policy matters connected with the Spring Budget – a significant political event of national importance. The subjects discussed included personal and corporate tax, Government borrowing; the role of economic forecasting in budget setting; the cost-of-living crisis; and HS2.
No alternative viewpoints
Ofcom discovered that in discussing these matters, “the programme was overwhelmingly reflective of the viewpoints of different strands of opinion within the Conservative Party”.
Its investigation found “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. In addition, there were no clear, editorial linkages made in this programme to any other content which might have contained these views.”
GB News accepted that the programme dealt with a matter of major political controversy and current public policy and that the special impartiality rules applied.
On air for just over two years, GB News has already been summoned to Ofcom to discuss compliance issues, after being found in breach of broadcasting rules twice last year.
There’s been increasing criticism of GB News’ use of current sitting MPs as presenters. Ofcom’s rules state that politicians can’t present news programmes, but they are allowed to front current affairs programmes. However, GB News is accused of blurring the line between news and current affairs.
However, in this instance, Ofcom found that the news bulletins were clearly segregated from the rest of the programme, so that Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil could be judged as a current affairs, not a news programme.
Further investigations ongoing
Another six programmes are currently under investigation, this includes further episodes of Esther and Phil’s programmes. Five of the programmes aired in May. Four of the programmes are being investigated for potential breaches of the ‘politicians as presenters’ rule.
- Jacob Rees Mogg’s State of the Nation (9th May) – politicians as presenters
- Friday Morning with Esther and Phil (12th May) – politicians as presenters
- Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil (13th May) – politicians as presenters and due impartiality
- Jacob Rees Mogg’s State of the Nation (13th May) – politicians as presenters
- Laurence Fox presented by Martin Daubney (16th May) – due impartiality
- The Live Desk (7th July) – Licensee expressing views on political issues and due impartiality
TalkTV and Greatest Hits Radio are also under Ofcom investigation for separate breaches of due impartiality rules.