GB News Under Scrutiny Over Impartiality Concerns

Senior TV figures have raised concerns over GB News’ alleged impartiality breaches, questioning Ofcom’s response and highlighting broader challenges in maintaining media fairness and regulatory oversight. Here’s the whole story.

GB “News”

The right-wing, hedge fund-owned channel GB News entered the UK broadcasting scene with much anticipation and ridicule over its less-than-stellar launch. 

However, the channel, modelled after partisan news channels in the US such as Fox News, has recently found itself mired in controversy over the way it practises its business. 

Several senior figures in UK broadcasting, including former ITN chief Stewart Purvis and broadcaster Adam Boulton, have raised serious concerns over the channel’s impartiality under UK broadcasting law. 

Easy Questions

They have highlighted instances where Conservative MPs host shows and interview each other with easy questions and without much pushback on conservative talking points, which seriously compromises the channel’s apparent commitment to impartiality. 

The involvement of Conservative MPs like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Esther McVey, and Philip Davies in GB News programming has drawn particular scrutiny.

With shows hosted by these MPs currently under investigation by Ofcom, the UK’s broadcasting regulator, questions have arisen over the appropriateness of political figures, all from one side of the political aisle, leading broadcast content on a supposedly impartial platform. 

Ensuring Fairness

Ofcom is tasked with ensuring fairness and impartiality across all the channels shown on TV in the UK. 

However, critics have accused Ofcom of leniency towards GB News, citing long delays in investigations and a perceived reluctance to take decisive action against the channel. Ofcom is now under sustained pressure to address these concerns quickly, primarily as the general election draws nearer. 

In response to these allegations, GB News has staunchly defended its position, stating, “GB News chose to be regulated by Ofcom and takes its compliance obligations seriously.”

The Rishi Sunak Show

Within the last few weeks, an investigation was launched into a GB News show in which the current UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, was questioned by members of the public, which was seen as not including questions from a broad enough selection of political positions. 

GB News stated that this investigation “indicates a worrying trend towards a selective, narrow interpretation of Ofcom’s rules and excessive intervention in purely editorial matters which stands to inhibit those freedoms it claims to support.”

However, the protestations of GB News ring hollow in the minds of many within the broadcasting industry. 

Expressing Dismay

Veteran broadcasters like Adam Boulton express dismay at what they see as GB News flouting established broadcasting norms. 

Boulton stated, “What we’ve got with GB News is conservative and right-wing politicians interviewing each other, essentially a mix of softball questions to them and right-wing politics. My understanding, as someone with 40 years experience in broadcasting, is that that would be seen by most people as a violation of the rules.”

According to Boulton, such actions undermine the foundation of trust and fairness in broadcasting.

Intense Scrutiny

The role of Ofcom is under intense scrutiny as critics ask hard questions about the regulator’s ability, or even desire, to investigate or take action against GB News’ breaches of impartiality. 

Former BBC News chief political correspondent Jon Sopel has raised concerns over the erosion of impartiality within the UK’s broadcasting industry, stating, “In the US, I witnessed the polarisation of TV, where it was not news to inform but to affirm what people already thought, and I thought that was such a dangerous road to go down.”

He continued: “I’m not suggesting that we have reached that point in the UK, but we have had a broadcasting ecosystem where there has been a duty to uphold impartiality and to report the news fairly.

Sopel questioned Ofcom’s decision-making regarding GB News, stating, “I have a lot of respect for Ofcom, but what I cannot understand is it allowing GB News to do things that no other broadcaster would be allowed to get away with.”

Lack of Clarity

ITV Chief, Stewart Purvis challenged Ofcom’s stance on politicians hosting programs, pointing to a perceived lack of clarity in regulatory guidelines. 

Purvis noted that, after the channel rebranded this year to The Election Channel, serious questions needed to be asked about its supposed impartiality. 

Purvis stated, “Can you have a programme which goes out under the banner of the election channel, where the leader of one party has a chance to talk to voters, but there’s no mention of any other party leader?”

Accusations Mount

As accusations mount against Ofcom, calls for decisive action and transparency intensify. The ongoing debate surrounding GB News highlights the need for action around media impartiality and the regulatory oversight of a channel that shares its political opinions with the party that makes up the current government. 

Ofcom’s failure to act could be taken as a damning indictment of a toothless regulator afraid to take any measures which may harm the government of the day. 

As the broadcasting landscape continues to evolve, maintaining the audience’s trust, rather than the approval of political leaders, remains the stated goal of broadcasters, even if they sometimes fall short of their standards. 

The post GB News Under Scrutiny Over Impartiality Concerns first appeared on Pulse365 Limited.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / VladKol.

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