Update on GB News impartiality cases
An Ofcom investigation has today concluded (PDF, 422.6 KB) that a programme presented by Martin Daubney (standing in for Laurence Fox), which aired on GB News on 16 June 2023, breached due impartiality rules.
Separately, we have published our assessment (PDF, 310.0 KB) of an episode of Lee Anderson’s Real World, 29 September 2023, featuring an interview with Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP. We will not be investigating this programme and have set out our reasoning in full.
Decision: Laurence Fox, 16 June 2023
Ofcom received a complaint about this weekly topical debate programme, which on this occasion was presented by Martin Daubney, a former Brexit Party MEP and former deputy leader of the Reclaim Party.
During the programme Martin Daubney gave his views on the topic of immigration and asylum policy, in the context of controversy over small boats crossing the English Channel. He also interviewed the leader of the Reform Party, Richard Tice.
Due impartiality rules and freedom of expression
Ofcom recognises that, in line with the right to freedom of expression, broadcasters are free to decide the editorial approach of their programmes. We also consider it essential for current affairs programmes to provide opinionated, challenging debate, and to be able to discuss and analyse topical matters, and take a position on those issues. But in doing so, broadcasters must observe the rules set out in the Broadcasting Code.
The Code is clear that when programmes are dealing with matters of major political controversy and current public policy – including immigration and asylum policy – heightened impartiality requirements apply. Specifically, rules 5.11 and 5.12 require that an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight in such programmes, or in clearly linked and timely programmes.
Ofcom’s investigation and decision
Given this programme featured in-depth discussion about immigration and asylum policy – a matter of major political controversy and current public policy – we consider that GB News should have taken additional steps to ensure that due impartiality was preserved.
Our investigation found Mr Tice presented his views on immigration and asylum policy with insufficient challenge, and the limited alternative views presented in the programme were dismissed. The programme therefore did not include and give due weight to an appropriately wide range of significant views, as required by the Code.
GB News accepted that the content was not compliant with the heightened special impartiality requirements in the Code.
We expect GB News to take careful account of this decision in its compliance of future programming.
Complaints assessed, not pursued: Lee Anderson’s Real World, 29 September 2023
We have also today published our assessment of Lee Anderson's Real World, a weekly discussion programme which aired on GB News on 29 September, and the reasons for our decision not to investigate this programme.
This programme dealt with the topic of immigration and border control. During the programme, Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Lee Anderson MP interviewed Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, and led a subsequent panel discussion on the issues raised.
Politicians are allowed to present current affairs programmes under our rules, providing they aren’t standing for election and that due impartiality is preserved. Having assessed the nature and format of the programme – which included the combination of a pre-recorded interview, in-depth studio analysis and panel discussion – we were satisfied it was a current affairs programme. At the time of broadcast, neither Lee Anderson or Suella Braverman was standing in an election taking place, or about to take place. We therefore concluded that the programme did not raise issues under Rule 5.3 of the Broadcasting Code, which sets out the restriction on politicians presenting news programmes.
"The programme included an appropriately wide range of significant views on immigration and border control, which were given due weight"
We considered immigration and border control to be a matter of major political controversy and a major matter relating to current public policy. And so, as in the case above, the heightened impartiality requirements under the Code applied.
In this case, we considered that this programme met these requirements by including an appropriately wide range of significant views on the matter of immigration and border control, which were given due weight.
GB News deployed a range of editorial techniques to achieve this. The presenter and another speaker read out statements from an individual and organisations which interspersed, and challenged the views set out by the Home Secretary in the interview. During the panel discussion, two panellists, representing differing political perspectives to those of Suella Braverman and Lee Anderson, were able to challenge comments made by the Home Secretary and express a range of alternative views.
Given this, we did not consider that the programme raised any issues warranting investigation under the Code.
We have 12 further investigations open into GB News which we are working to conclude as quickly as possible, in line with our published procedures.